How can people go about creating harmony in blended families? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Answer by Julie Timmer, author of Mrs. Saint and the Defectives and other novels:
Every blended family is different, so I'm not sure there's a checklist that guarantees harmony. Here are some of the things my husband and I did, which we feel worked to create harmony in our blended family. Keep in mind our children ranged from 3-6 when we got married:
- We moved into a new house instead of staying in the one that had been "mine" or "his." The new place was "ours"--the adults felt that way and so did the kids. In the first few months of living there, we came up with excuses to leave the house so we'd be able to return, as a family, to "our house." My husband and I would say, "Oh, look, here we are, back at OUR HOUSE." I know it sounds very minor, but with young children, it seemed to make a difference.
- We made sure everyone felt they were being treated fairly. Bedtimes were based on age, not on whether a child was step or bio. Rules were applied equally to everyone, as were consequences for disobeying rules. I didn't go easier on my bio kids than my steps and my husband was the same.
- Related to fairness, one easy way to treat children fairly is by spending the same amount of money on them when you can. We based allowances on age, not on whether a child was our bio or stepkid. We had a budget for birthday and Christmas gifts, and we stuck to it for each child. There may be certain financial realities (child support coming in and going out, etc) that make equal spending on everything out of the question, but it's easy to keep things like allowances and gifts equal, so we made sure to do that.
- When the kids were still in elementary school, we started having monthly Family Meetings. We began the meeting by taking turns going around the table and saying something nice about each person. Then, we opened up the meeting to anyone with an agenda item. The kids used these meetings to express any feelings they had of being treated unfairly, and my husband and I were able to explain the fairness in the situation, or when appropriate, to admit what we had done did seem unfair, and to apologize. The children felt heard, and we were able to keep small blended-family issues and resentments from growing into larger ones.