Blended Families: What Parents Need to Know Before They Remarry
Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson
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You and your sweetie have decided to combine your households – how lovely! But if there are children involved, then there are some topics you and your beloved need to discuss before you make a move.
It’s natural to assume that your soul mate thinks the same as you on childrearing matters. But this might not be so. One of the greatest matters of argument between parents in any household – right up there along with money – is how to manage the children. It pays to smooth out this potential trouble spot ahead of time.
So before you combine households, talk about children. What does your honey think about corporal punishment, about children’s chores, about educational goals, and so on. Pick a quiet weekend afternoon and go for a long walk. Talk this stuff over. Find out how your dearie was raised and how this affected the relationship with his or her own parents right now. A harsh or permissive childhood foreshadows harsh or permissive parenting: we tend to parent in the way we were raised.
If your fiancé has children, notice how they are disciplined. Notice how they treat their parent and how they are treated back. If your beloved doesn’t have custody of the children, how often do the children visit and how do these visits go?
Be upfront with your new love about your own parenting ideas. Be frank about difficulties you’re having with your children and be clear about the limits you’ve set on your discipline methods. Realize that any disagreements you and your significant other have now will only be magnified once you both live under the same roof with children running around. Do not imagine that disagreements will vanish once your children win your new love over. Do not imagine that you will be able to change his or her point-of-view. Instead, resolve any issues ahead of time.
Keep in mind that it doesn’t work to simply say, “I’ll manage my children and you manage yours.” Children need the support of all the adults in their lives and trying to keep your nose out of your step-children’s affairs – and trying to keep your sweetie separate from your own children – deprives everyone of a normal family life.
The best hope for a remarriage is a normal family life – a happy family life. It’s what I wish for you. Pave the way for that by talking about childrearing before you tie the knot.
© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.