Written By Jennifer Pell
Sixty-five percent of remarriages involve children and blending two families. Moving in with a new spouse and their children is a huge transition for everyone involved, not just the children, but also the parents on both sides. There are a multitude of factors to take into account when blending a family, but here are some tips on making the move as easy as possible for everyone involved.
Before everyone moves in together, you and your partner should sit down and agree together on how your new, blended household will run. First and foremost, it is important that the parents agree and form a united front, as this will be the most important factor in the stepparents establishing and maintaining authority. Aside from household details, there may also be legal considerations to discuss with an attorney before the families are integrated.
Safety is the first thing to address when moving into a new home. Especially if you have younger children, you and your partner will need to make sure the home is suitably childproofed before your children set foot in the house. If you have children old enough to drive, make sure you all understand the rules in your state for young drivers, and also institute your own household rules, particularly if older kids will be driving younger ones. It's much easier to deal with the psychological effects of a remarriage when physical safety has been assured.
Make It Legal
As you combine households, and subsequently, finances, there are legal factors to consider. In some states, rather than taking just the parent's income into account, the stepparent's income is also considered when a court makes a ruling on child support. This is not the case in Pennsylvania, but it is advisable to consult with an attorney to make sure you know your rights and what you may be entitled to from the other parents of all children.
Stepparents are often the ones chauffeuring children to and from school and extracurricular activities, which logically increases the chances of them being with a stepchild in the event of an accident. Drawing up a Power of Attorney through your lawyer for each stepparent to be able to make emergency medical decisions for the children can give everyone in the household the peace of mind to assign chauffeuring responsibilities in the most efficient manner. However, if the non-custodial parent of the child has failed or refused to fulfill their parental obligations, it may be possible, with a family law attorney, for a stepparent to legally adopt the children of their partner.
Depending on how many children you have together and how many extracurricular activities those children have, family dinners together every night may not be feasible. In order to gather everyone in your new family together to share and spend time without the distraction of electronics and homework, choose one night (or more, if you can) per week that everyone is free and make attendance to that dinner mandatory. This is the perfect time for everyone to share their days, and generally get to know each other better.
A weekend evening for family movie night might also be a stretch, especially with older children, but choose a family-friendly TV show on a streaming service and plan a couple nights each month that everyone is free to spend time relaxing together. Watching a show as a group will give everyone something to talk about at family dinners. Spending time together is important if your new living situation is to feel like a family.
Nothing about blending a family is easy, but there are steps that can be made to make the transition smoother. There will be ups and downs, but establishing rules and designated family times will set a precedent that will hopefully enable easier co-parenting. A new relationship with a partner, and subsequently, with their children, should be a joyous matter, so setting the proper foundation and taking care of the legal matters upfront will help you to enjoy it.