A soon-to-be step mom contacted me and asked for some tips on how to mix his kids and her kids together in a new family unit. Here is a part of her note to me:
“I am a mother of two young children under the age of ten and I am engaged to a man who is a father of two children – tween and teenaged. He keeps stressing how he wants everything to be “fair” for all four kids. That includes same punishments and rewards, same expectations on eating and daily routines. Also he doesn’t see that it is fair that my kids have their extracurricular activities when he can’t afford for his kids to. Keep in mind we do not live together yet, but will be within a few months. It seems that he wants things to be fair when it benefits him or his children, and fair to him is us conforming to his rules. His youngest is on a diet, so that means none of the kids are allowed to snack or have juice, even when they are all not together. Has anyone else experienced these issues and how do they handle them? ”
Well, “Soon-to-be Stepmom,” let me first say it isn’t possible to treat every child the same. As each child responds differently to disciplinary actions, they also respond differently to rewards. They are individuals and part of the joy of parenting is to find out what makes them tick and then utilize those findings to raise up each child to reach their God-given potential. My daughter loves gifts as a reward. My son doesn’t really care about stuff – but wants you to sit and visit with him. I spanked my daughter at times to discipline but spanking did not reach my son’s brain. I had to figure out that taking away outside playtime did the trick.
When Dan and I married, my kids were into sports and music. Dan’s son was a little older but did not have any extracurricular activities. Before we married, Dan knew that my kids would stay in their activities. We had also talked about the financial aspect of my kids being involved in the extras. As our two families became one, we had to slowly put parameters around extra activities – and make sure that our finances could accommodate his kids having some outside interests as well. And that was okay.
An area that my kids had to adjust quickly to was how we spent birthdays. Before I married Dan, my kids had a birthday dinner at the restaurant of choice on their actual birthday and then we also had a birthday party on the closest weekend. Gifts were plentiful and I really overspent. After I married Dan, he set up a budget to include what amounts we could afford for each child for birthdays and Christmas. It was a drastic cut from what my kids were used to … but we talked to the kids about how this family needed to be run financially and that we would do things fairly in this area. At the time, my kids were bummed … and it was still okay. Today, my daughter runs her household on a budget and even has gifts for me budgeted!
As far as dietary differences goes, if one child is on a special diet, then everyone does their best to encourage. I do admit to taking my kids out to eat sushi after I married Dan because he and his kids would never eat that stuff! My stepdaughter has a husband and one child that both have special dietary needs. She is training the child to know what foods are best. She does a wonderful job of having the right kind of foods for the ones on special diets as well as for her other three children. She has also come up with recipes that will conform to all in the house. I also want to tell you that her three other children know that certain foods in the house are for their dad and their sibling.
These are some areas in which you can help guide your family to work and adjust to the individuals within. It also teaches your family about responsibility for themselves as well as their responsibility to each other in their family.
No, it cannot always be equal. Your family can work towards that end but to initially tell children from one family that they will no longer be able to have activities outside of school and they can no longer have their kinds of drinks or foods is asking a lot.
Both families coming together need to realize that there will be foods, activities, traditions, and routines that are different – but it can be okay. It is very important to have constant communication about your lives coming together. It is very important to talk with the children so they can be a part of the blending process.
Your lives may not mesh perfectly, but you can find a place where things can be okay.
Blessings in Your Blending!