Dear Dr. Jann: I recently remarried and now have two stepchildren. We have been married almost a year (dated six months prior) and I still cannot accept his children. I truly thought it would change by now, but it hasn’t. I love my husband very much. Can you give me some ideas to help us successfully combine this family?

Dr. Jann: Combining families doesn’t happen overnight and it’s not magic. Things don’t just fall into place because an officiant stands in front of two people and their kids and pronounces them “family.” It takes hard work and a vision for what you want your new family to be like. No vision, no goal, no family.

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Let’s look at it another way. Your husband and you courted before you married. You dated, learned each other’s likes and dislikes, and eventually got to the point that you wondered what you did all those years without each other. You spent time getting to know each other — even if it was only for six months — there was time spent together and you eventually fell in love.

Rarely is there a courting period devoted to getting to know the kids — no spending one on one time sharing thoughts and dreams (especially since you two moved so fast). No dating. No time spent together so you could eventually fell in love. Couples usually just move in together or get married with no family preparation. And, now the kids feel like strangers and you wonder why everything hasn’t fallen into place.

You have to build relationships, they don’t just happen. First thing, have a mental picture of the type of relationship you want with these kids. See yourself close. That is your new goal. Start spending one on one time with them. You have probably already spent time with dad as your chaperone. Now it’s your turn to initiate some fun. Put as much energy into getting to know them as individuals as you did their dad when you started dating and chances are you will be just as successful. It’s a slow process and it gets better in baby steps. Start walking.

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About Jann Blackstone

Jann BlackstoneDr. Jann Blackstone specializes in divorce, child custody, co-parenting, and stepfamily mediation and is often called the “Relationship Expert for Today’s Relationships” because of her “real life, down-to-earth” approach to relationship problem solving. She is the author of six books on divorce and parenting, the most popular, the Ex-etiquette series featuring Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation. She is also the author of the Ex-etiquette syndicated column and a frequent guest or consultant on television and radio talk shows, including Good Morning America (ABC), The Today Show (NBC), Keeping Kids Healthy (PBS), the Early Show (CBS), and The Oprah Winfrey Show. She has been the featured expert in many magazines, including, Child, Parents, Parenting, Newsweek, Family Circle, More, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, BRIDES, Woman’s Day, and Working Mother Magazine.

In 1999, Dr. Jann founded and became the first Director of Bonus Families®, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization working to change the way society views stepfamilies by supplying up-to-date co-parenting information via its Web site, counseling, mediation, and a worldwide support group network. They prefer to use the word “bonus” to the word step. Step implies negative things; however, a “bonus” is a reward for a job well done. “Bonus…a step in the right direction.”