Adjusting to married life can be a big challenge for fathers of blended families. Combining households with kids involves a unique set of hurdles, sensitivities, and opportunities dads need to be prepared to handle.
Here are six tips to help fathers of blended families:
- Remember, You’re in it for the Long Haul
According to Couples Considering a Blended Family (University of Florida. UF/IFAS Extension), “Building a good relationship [within blended families] does not happen instantly. It takes time, effort, commitment, and lots of patience.” For dads of blended families, one of the most important tips is to remember that progress and healthy relationships may not occur overnight, but, with commitment, they can happen.
- Develop a Parenting Plan or Blended Family Contract
Parenting plans are often thought of as legal documents connected to a divorce. The concept can also be helpful for blended families to help parents answer questions that could produce debates harmful to the family. Helpful questions to answer in your blended family parenting plan or blended family contract may include:
- How do you plan to handle conflict and discipline?
- How will you handle child expenses or money requests?
- What are appropriate and allowed uses of technology, TV, and household resources?
- What expectations are there related to chores and academics?
- What times are designated for bedtime, curfew, mealtimes, and family activities?
For more detail on blended family contracts, download Couples Considering a Blended Family.
- Discuss Discipline Before Move-in or As Soon As Possible
Discipline can be a difficult and potentially debilitating topic for blended families. It can also be a great opportunity to establish structure that sets up the entire unit for success. When tackling discipline, here are tips for navigating from Cathy Meyer, Divorce Support Expert with About.com1:
- Clearly define who is in authority.
- Discuss how to ensure all children are treated equally.
- Decide how you plan to lead by example as it relates to household rules and guidelines.
- Be Consistent, Build Bonds through Routine
“Consistency helps children feel a sense of stability,” according to Kate Fogarty, Millie Ferrer, and Sara McCrea, authors of Couples Considering a Blended Family. “The best way to develop positive relationships within your new family is to take time to talk and listen to each other. All members, especially teens becoming adults, need to feel their opinions are valued and considered during decision-making.”
- Work on Connections in Pairs
To build a successfully blended family, it is necessary that all members have one-to-one connections. To do this it is important that each pair of family members spend time developing their relationships. These connections can be fostered through recreational activities, meals, and day-to-day interactions that provide opportunities for family members to communication and develop a shared interest.
- Moderate Change Over Time
The addition of new family members can be a major adjustment for parents and children. In successfully fathering a budding blended family, be sure to moderate changes in individual routines for all family members. An example of this is being sure to initially keep certain schedule rituals between biological parents and children, like sports or cooking, and slowly integrate new family members into those experiences.
Get More Expert Help
Fathering a blended family can get tough, but dads are not in it alone. To get help, dads of blended families and new couples can take advantage of years of expertise and research from healthy marriage, family and responsible fatherhood
- The National Resource Center for Healthy Marriage and Families Resource Library
- The For Dads Tips and Activities section available here at Fatherhood.gov
- The NRFC’s Fatherhood Helpline – 1-877-4-DAD-411 (1-877-432-3411)
Jovan Hackley, National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse team member and outreach and strategy consultant
1 Meyer, C. (n.d.). Disciplining Your Child After Divorce. Retrieved July 15, 2015, from http://divorcesupport.about.com/od/relationshipwithyourex/tp/Disciplining-Your-Child-After-Divorce.htm