Blended families are becoming a reality for more people every year. Did you know that one in three Americans is part of a blended family, either as a step-parent, step-child or step-sibling? What kind of blended family will you have?

Here are 7 sure-fire ways to undermine your blended family and tips to get you back on track.

1. Ask a Parent to Choose Between Children and a New Spouse

There’s a lot of truth to the saying “blood is thicker than water.” Too often I hear of step-parents experiencing jealousy or feeling threatened by the children of their new partner. New step-parents need to realize that a parent needs time and space to love and nurture the relationship with his or her children.

Tip: Love is an abundant natural resource and there is enough love for both you and his or her children.

2. Start the Turf Wars

Some step-parents try to win favor by overcompensating and bending over backwards to please everyone. Sometimes the overly eager-to-be-accepted step-mom may step on the toes of the biological mother, which can set up a turf war that nobody ends up winning.

Tip: Be respectful of yourself and others. You can build strong relationships with your partner’s children on your own merits by being who you are.

3. Suffer in Silence and Nurse a Grudge

The dynamics of a step-family are incredibly complex, with all kinds of conflicting loyalties. Suffering in silence or nursing grudges adds to the complications. If you want a blended family that respects, understands, and ultimately loves one another, you’ll have to speak up and be heard.

Tip: Communicate, communicate, communicate. Ask for what you want. Ask constructive questions and invite dialogue with other members of your blended family, including the children and ex-spouse as needed.

4. Don’t Take It Personally

Expect children, and even former spouses and new spouses, to test boundaries and limits of the new blended family. Stress management expert Tim O’Brien recommends the QTIP technique – Quit Taking It Personally. Don’t look at other people’s behavior as a judgment about yourself.

Tip: Take a deep breath, count to ten and ask yourself, “Is this really my issue?”

5. Use Different Strokes for Different Folks

When each spouse brings children from previous relationships into one blended family, but with radically different discipline and house rules, watch out! The charges of favoritism and unfairness will start pretty quickly. Some amount of consistency will help the new family to gel.

Tip: Identify how discipline and chores will be handled and by whom, ideally before you start living together. Ongoing communication and review is important.

6. Expect To Be the Brady Bunch

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the prequel of the Brady Bunch and hear the discussions and issues they faced before they merged so happily? Put aside the fantasy that if someone loves you, they are going to automatically love your children and vice versa. Relationships are always works in progress and have to be built over time.

Tip: Create a big picture of what you’d like your blended family to look and feel like. Make your day-to-day choices based on what will move you towards that vision.

7. Don’t Have a Game Plan

Crossing your fingers and hoping that everything “will work out for the best” is a slippery slope. Take some leadership and decide what your role will be. Do you see yourself as a trusted advisor, third parent, or a detached observer? What role does your new spouse want you to play? If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Tip: Realize that blended families are playing in a whole new ballpark than the traditional, nuclear family. Create some agreements on the roles and responsibilities people in this new family system will have. Expect to fine-tune it on a regular basis.

Author's Bio: 

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