So you’ve decided to take the plunge and get married again, and you couldn’t be happier. Getting a second or even third chance at love is truly wonderful, but it’s not always without its catches. Nowadays, especially if you’re of a certain age group, it’s rare to meet someone that doesn’t come with a ready-made family as part of a package deal. Images of Cheaper by the Dozen may instantly come to mind, but the successful integration of two families takes time and patience. If both of you have children from prior relationships and you’re discussing marriage, here are some important things to consider.
If two people don’t have the same or very similar parenting styles within integrated families you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle. Knowing this beforehand is key to successful integration. You can liken it to different spending or finance styles but upping the stakes a bit. If you’re not on the same page this is a recipe for disaster, and is the cause of many marital failures. If your parenting styles are polar opposites, you may not be that well suited for one another, and it’s something to think long and hard about before taking the plunge.
Discipline and authority
Before you take that trip down the aisle and try integration, make sure you sit down and discuss the issue of discipline and authority, as far as the kids, go well in advance of the actual wedding plans. More arguments have stemmed from one parent’s attempt at disciplining their new partner’s child, only to hear the familiar battle cry, “He’s/she’s not your son/daughter!” Few things can create familial discord quicker. Agreeing beforehand on discipline, and shared authority needs to be spelled out. Don’t assume you both have an “understanding” about it just because you think you have the same values and similar parenting styles.
Don’t let kids pit you against one another. Sticking together when attempting family integration and presenting a united front as parents is tremendously important. This goes for any family where kids are present, not just integrated families. As anyone with children well knows, when a child receives an answer to a request for something and they’re turned down by one parent they’ll inevitably go to the other parent to see if they can’t elicit a different response. A key component to successful family integration is to discuss this with the whole family at once and set the parameters. Make it clear to the kids that this behavior is not acceptable, and that once they’ve been told no, that’s it. No means no. This will save you a lot of unnecessary aggravation in the long run.
Don’t play favorites
Treat everyone the same if you want the family integration to really work. What goes for one goes for all, and playing favorites doesn’t cut it. It will only promote resentment, tension, and underlying hostility between everyone. Remember, you promised to love him for better or worse, and that also means accepting his children as your own, and if you’re not capable of doing this then maybe you should rethink the whole matter. Include his children in everything you’d include your own children in. Plan family activities for your entire brood so that no one feels left out. Spend time with them, read to them, play games with them and try to love them as you love your own.