In the early summer of 2019, my mom introduced my sister and I to a man and his daughter. Three years later, they are living with us and a lot has changed. To others, it probably seems pretty cut and dry, a simple blended family situation. However, we face problems every day and struggle to bond/become one family. Over the years it has been hard to set boundaries, feel at home, and even just get along.
With all of the adjustments I’ve had to make personally, it has been hard to protect my own mental health sometimes. For a while, I was not successful, but I have found methods that help me stabilize myself while trying my best to get along. During disagreements, I try to remind myself of the fact that it is not me versus my stepparent, and rather the two of us versus the problem. I have found that this prevents me from taking everything to heart, and genuinely trying to make progress with our relationship.
Communication is key, and learning to voice your true feelings respectfully will take strides in any sort of relationship. In all honesty, this is a big struggle I face not only due to occasional anger, but also pride. That said, I try my best to work on it. People have trouble really listening to someone when they feel disrespected or talked down to. Practicing using kind words and still getting your point across will ultimately help in the long run, because it will be easier to have conversations without fighting and reach agreements fairly.
Taking time away with biological parents, and even some with a stepparent/sibling can also aid in building a bond or relationship that would otherwise be difficult to achieve. It is important to spend quality time with one another, even if that seems dreadful to start with. Everyone begins somewhere. Finding a common interest, or even watching a show/movie together can be the first step toward progress. The ultimate goal is to have a trusting and loving relationship that the family feels safe and comfortable in. This won’t come easily, but it is more than possible.
Setting boundaries is also vital. Making it clear when you need privacy, or when things are moving too fast are great ways to help your stepparent understand you. When you try to respect them, they will want to respect you, too. They do not want to overstep your boundaries, or try to replace the other parent, so helping them understand where you draw the line will only help you.
It is not your job to mediate fights. Sometimes, I find myself in the middle of an argument between my parents and stepparent, and even more often it is about me or my siblings. Even still, I try to stay out of it until they come to a conclusion and are able to give me rules/restrictions I need to start following. The only thing that we can do to make the adjustments easier is hold up our end of the deal by respecting our stepparents’ rules and their rights as an adult in the relationship. They can handle the disagreements themselves, and all we can do is help where we can when they reach a conclusion. It may seem hard to refrain from defending your parents, but it is not your battle to fight and it is oftentimes healthy for them to voice their own opinions with one another.
No family is perfect, but when we reflect personally on what we ourselves could be doing better, it helps others want to do the same. Blended families are a lot of work, but they are possible. Understanding how positive the household can be with some effort is the first step, and though it is different from everyone you may find yourself naturally adjusting to new customs that help you and your family get along. Effort is the first step, and I believe in you! Years later, I am still working to reach a comfortable spot with the new additions to my family, but we have come a long way from where we started. Taking it day by day and doing my best while knowing my limits has helped me millions, and maybe it can help you too.