Blended families have the potential to be a wonderful gift. When you marry someone with kids, there is a pre-existing sense of love and affection for their children. It is a joy to see the qualities, character traits and quirks displayed in the children of your new partner.
Recently I got married to the most wonderful man, and began a relationship his five children. Add my two adult kids and we are now a blended tribe of 5 adult children, 2 pre-teens and 2 grandchildren. Breaking it down, we are: Italian, Polish, Midwest, East Coast, West Coast, Democrat, Republican, Queer, Hetro, Cat lovers, Dog lovers and Night Owls/Early Birds.
And bonus round! We are an interfaith blended family, Jewish, Catholic and Evangelical Christian.
Sharing Holidays With Blended Families
Blended families are one of the most challenging and rewarding things about re-marriage. Often, one of the most destructive things to a second marriage is the stepchildren. Loyalties are triggered, birth parents feel defensive or embarrassed by their kid’s behavior, and the non-bio parent feels left out of rituals and the memories of family history.
It can be a real shit show.
And the most frightening result? The newly married couple starts to fracture under the weight of all the divided loyalties.
Red Flags Before Marriage
If you are in a relationship with a person who has children with a former partner, pay attention to these potential blended family warning signs:
- Capable adult children who have not financially separated from their parent.
- Adult children who use emotional manipulation to control/influence a parent’s choices.
- Adult children who remind the new partner that they are not their biological parent.
- Adult children who want to force arguments and insist on choosing sides.
These behaviors are clear indicators that there is some hostility toward the potential new mate. If the man or woman you are dating is emotionally entangled with their adult children, buckle in for a long bumpy marriage. Before entering wedded bliss, take some time and seek out counseling for your partnership.
The boundaries you draw in your new marriage need to be solid, respectful, and balanced. They need to favor the new partnership, not the old historical allegiances or unhealed emotional family wounds. Blending family with adult children is a complicated and challenging topic.
It is a nuanced blend of flexibility and rigidity. Flex as much as possible, but make sure to set and maintain your boundaries as a couple.
You Have What It Takes to Create A Happy Home
So, wait… is it possible to blend families and enjoy visits from adult children?
Absolutely! Start early setting your boundaries, be consistent and above all, seek to radiate respectful healthy grown- ass adult love. Holidays with blended families can create meaningful memories, and help build the bonds of acceptance.
As the holidays approach, here are some simple suggestions to help everyone feel at home and respected.
Hosting Suggestions For Holidays With a Blended Family
These are the blended family rules that currently exist in our home. We recently hosted my adult children and their spouses for a weeklong visit. It was an incredible time of bonding and creating new memories. My new husband and I had prepared for difficult emotions and potential conflict, but happily there was not even a hint of negativity.
Everyone is welcome. Please come and celebrate our holidays with us. If you do not typically celebrate our holidays, we still want you to join us if you like. We ask that you are respectful when participating in our holiday traditions. They are important to us just like your traditions are valuable to you. We are doing our best to be inclusive.
We love you, but it is our house. Ever have an adult child tell you how to run your life? Yea, that is about as welcome as a turd in a punch bowl, amiright? In the spirit of unity and family bonding, please respect that the host has the right to set the household rules. We have tried to think of everything to make your visit amazing, we really do want you here. Please respect our preferences, our beliefs, and our political views.
Look for ways to help. Please enjoy yourself during your visit, but we ask that you look for small ways to help out with the daily chores. Trying unloading the dishwasher. Offer to cook a meal for the whole house, throw in a load of kitchen towels. Sweep the floor, offer to vacuum the great room. Get the idea? Find something simple and helpful to show us that you are part of the team.
Childhood Roles Often Re-Appear During Family Visits
It is quite common for adult children to fall back into childhood roles when visiting their parents. Gently remind them that Mom/Dad is no longer their maid or chef. Be prepared for some push-back when you ask for extra help in the household chores. Stay firm, offer to help them if needed and allow all those years of instructional chores to finally pay off!
We are doing our best to see you as adults. It can be hard for parents of adult kids to ease back on the parental throttle. We know you are grown ass, but magically we still see the little boys and girls that we raised. Forgive us if we get stuck in reactive parental behaviors. Take us aside, privately, and let us know that we need to slow our roll.
The Final Word on New Marriages and Blended Families
No matter what your role is in a new marriage, you want to have successful and affectionate relationships with your bonus blended family. If you call yourself a stepparent, a friend or you just function in the role of cheerleader, remember that you are a critical part of creating healthy blended family relationships.
To our adult children: We love you. We want to be in a healthy relationship with you. We respect your adult decisions, and we expect you to respect our decisions. It is our desire to build memories full of joy and laughter with our new partner. We hope that you can support our blended family partnership. Join us as often as you can, we want you to feel close to us and welcome in our home.