Family Mixology

Blended Family
Blended families occur with new members are added through adoption, divorce or other arrangements such as guardianships. Usually the groundwork leading up to the blended family involves some type of major change in a child’s life, such as death, foster homes, and/or termination of parental rights. The rush to mend the pain with quickly forging new relationships is tempting. But it can be a mistake to move too quickly. Make sure to take your time so the children feel comfortable with their  new family. Here are some tips to assist with you blending the members of your new family.
Don’t to fall in love overnight. Take time to get to know them. Love and affection is often built on years of positive memories and interaction.
Create family routines and rituals. Have a consistent daily routine to help the children get used to the new family, but also have meaningful family rituals. Spend every Sunday afternoon at  the park. Involve the children in building new family traditions together as a new family.
Be respectful. Be civil to one another, without ignoring, withdrawing or purposefully hurting one another. You can’t insist that everyone get along, but you can insist that everyone be nice.
Have realistic expectations. Think of your time, energy, and affection as small investments that will one day yield a lot of interest. Let the child set the pace. Everyone is different.
Make sure your marriage is a solid foundation for the new family. It’s hard to work on your marriage, when you are also working introducing a new family member. Expect to have less time for each other, while spending more time helping the child adjust. Agree as spouses on rules and parenting before introducing a new child to your family.
Beware of favoritism. When you have biological children and adopted children, it’s common for jealousy to occur. Be fair and treat the children equal. Don’t overcompensate in either direction.
Take into account the child’s development. Kids at different life stages have different needs. The physical and emotional needs of a toddler are obviously different from those of a teenager. Adjust your approach with the age level and gender of your child, while keeping your goal the same. Older adolescents may need more time to bond with a new family member before accepting them as a disciplinarian. Additionally, older adolescents may not demonstrate their feelings and need for affection as openly as a younger child. But, that doesn’t mean that they do not crave or need the same level of affection.
Leave room for growth. Think about your child’s history and how previous relationships with parental figures can affect new relationships. Children with insecure attachment history, may be problems establishing close bonds with new family members. However, an insecurely attached child can learn to trust others. Don’t give up.
Tana Benner
Tana Benner is an adoption attorney with Columbia Family Law Group. Her practice is focused in the area of family law and she has particular interests in adoption and helping children and victims of domestic violence.