As a child who grew up in one of the happiest homes imaginable, I certainly never thought I would be one day living in a blended family. When you’re a child and your parents are incredibly happy together, the thought of things being different doesn’t even occur to you. It certainly never did to me. My parents were best friends for as long as I can remember. At age 15, my world was turned upside down in every way possible when they separated due to some mistakes my Dad made. They later divorced when I was 18, and my Mom remarried when I was 24. Though my parents were able to remain friends until my Dad passed away when I was 26, things were still never the same. If you have ever had to adjust to living in a blended family, I understand that it can be one of the most difficult things imaginable. I’m no expert, but read on for my tips below and see what I’ve learned along the way.
1. Accept Things as They Are
A blended family is not easy, perfect, or expected, but it can end up being a blessing if you accept that life is about to change and a blended family is just one of the many major life changes you’ll encounter. For some time, no matter how nice my step-dad was to me, I still held an inner grudge that made me bitter, hard and somewhat resistant to the change. I was kind to him overall, but I still couldn’t accept that things had to be this way. I knew my parents weren’t getting back together, but still had a hard time accepting things as they were. It only made things worse on me and everyone else. Accept that things are different and focus on where you want to go with your life, not what you can’t change.
2. Reach out
One other tip I’ve learned by living in a blended family is to reach out to each other more for support. Learning to depend on one another, and accepting that you are all part of the same family by choice or not, can be a great way to develop more intimacy among one another. I didn’t want to ask my step-dad for support for anything at first. I went to my Dad for everything before he passed. Yet, there were many things my step-dad was able to help me with and teach me that my Dad didn’t know how to do. I also confided to my Mom more about some things I was struggling with in living in a blended family. By doing so, things seemed to get better and acceptance became easier.
3. Remain Respectful
Just because you aren’t happy with the situation of living in a blended family, do remember that your stepparent still deserves respect. I’m not happy to admit that this was one of the hardest things for me to practice. I realize now I was an angry little girl inside, lashing out at someone who wasn’t to blame for my disrupted childhood fantasy of being in the perfect family forever. The anger I carried inside was pushed away for years until my Mom remarried. When she did, I felt happy for her at first, yet then became extremely disrespectful in many ways to my step-dad, even though he was good to her. Remain respectful of whomever is in your blended family. They are people who have feelings and who deserve respect just like anyone else does.
4. Accept Differences
One of the key aspects of making things easier when living in a blended family is to accept that you are all going to have differences, and probably many of them! For instance, my step-dad is as different from me, my Mom and brother as night and day. He’s messy, not interested in much besides television, he’s a workaholic, but yet he’s also a fantastic mechanic, incredibly forgiving and financially responsible. He’s also got a good heart and loves animals like we do though, so on many levels he fits right in. Accept that people in your blended family are going to be different than you. Each of you has something to bring to the table and the key is finding out and appreciating what those things are.
5. Spend More Time Together
One way to learn to live in a blended family in peace is to spend more time together. I find that the more time I spend around my step-dad, the more I actually like him and appreciate his differences. Sure, he’s not like my Dad in the least little bit, but he still has great qualities and still can be someone in my life that I call family. I’ll never truly love him like a father, but I do appreciate that he’s a male figure in my life whom I care for and respect. I can now enjoy going out to dinner with him and my Mom instead of harboring resentment for the way things are. My step-dad has also done so much for me on other levels, and this has helped me want to spend more time with him because I appreciate him so much. Spending time together at the movies, dinner, playing games or simply talking at home is a great way to help the acceptance process along.
6. Respect Each Other’s Privacy
I’m a girl who needs her privacy. I don’t do well without it and I’ve learned that I’m not the only one who needs my alone time. Just like I need some time in the house to myself, so does my step-dad, my Mom and my brother. We also sometimes need to be able to do our own thing around the house and not have someone bother us while we’re enjoying what we are doing. If I see that my step-dad is watching television, I don’t go and try to change the channel in front of him or make a bunch of noise in the kitchen if he’s on the phone. Respecting one another is extremely important and makes things much more peaceful around the house.
7. Do Something Nice for Each Other
I’ve found one of the best ways to learn to live in a blended family successfully is to do something nice for the person you’re having a hard time adjusting to. Seriously! What seems like the opposite of what you may feel like doing will actually force you to find something to appreciate about them, or do something to make them smile. I have left cards, sent texts, fixed a meal, baked a cake or something similar for my step-dad before and it always makes me feel closer to him somehow. This has never been easy, but it truly is a great way to build a relationship with someone, whether you want to or not.
It’s important to remember that if you’re not happy in a blended family, there's probably not anything you can do to change it. If you live in a family where someone mistreats you, then please by all means do something to reach out for help from others, or talk to another family member about it. However, if you’re like me and just have had a hard time adjusting to a blended family, follow these tips and give it time. Things do get easier, I promise! Do you live in a blended family?