How to make a blended family actually work

Amy has two kids, Sam has three - so when they got together there was a whole lot of drama.

Being in a blended family is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done but I believe there are things that can make things a lot easier and have worked for myself, my husband and our five children (two are mine, three are his).

When it comes to my kids, the best thing I’ve done is keep communicating with the kids at all times. They should be allowed to ask questions.

I said to them from the very beginning that divorce is very tough, and nobody ever gets married thinking that it might end one day.

But life happens ...

Sometimes the bad times are very bad and we need to go with the flow and keep moving forward.

'My teenage son was mortified.' Image: iStock.

'My teenage son was mortified.' Image: iStock.

I’d been divorced from my ex-husband Ben for just a year when I met Sam

I didn’t tell my kids right away but one of my teenagers was on my phone and saw a photo of me kissing Sam and he was mortified.

He was very angry, telling me that he couldn’t believe what I had done to the family. That was the moment I vowed to myself to keep telling the truth, even when it hurt.

Related: The Real Joys of Being a Mom

Of course there were details about the divorce I kept to myself but I repeatedly told my kids that mum and dad loved each other when we married, and when we became parents but we grew apart in many ways and thought the best thing to do was to separate and co-parent from separate houses.

Sam came with two sons and a daughter while I have a son and a daughter.

I’ll never forget the first time we brought them all together

My daughter, who is a huge talker, kept her mouth firmly shut.

In fact, she spent most of the day with her head down, pretending to be engrossed in the lawn.

My son grunted the occasional comment. Sam’s kids were almost as bad, at least his eldest son tried to have something that resembled a conversation.

'I couldn't lie anymore.' Image: iStock.

'I couldn't lie anymore.' Image: iStock.

Easy does it

That’s when I realised we had to take things very slowly and not force the kids upon each other. We made a point of doing things ‘as a family’ very gradually. And we made sure that when the kids saw each other, it was always something fun – such as the movies, a water park or Luna Park.

That way, they could enjoy themselves and not be under pressure to talk too much to each other.

Set limits and encourage playtime. Media use, like all other activities, should have reasonable limits. Unstructured and offline play stimulates creativity. Make unplugged playtime a daily priority, especially for very young children.

It was excruciating at first

Eventually, we organised family dinners which were a bit excruciating at first but, after a few months, became almost normal.

The other thing we did that I think worked well is that I had a chat to Sam’s kids – I told them that I love their father and I can’t wait to get to know them too. But that I would never take the place of their mother. Likewise, Sam did the same with my kids and it went down better than we expected. Not perfect, but they all seemed to listen.

'We keep the family 'unblended' at Christmas.' Image: iStock.

'We keep the family 'unblended' at Christmas.' Image: iStock.

Also when it came to the first couple of big events such as Christmas day, we kept the family ‘unblended’ so that the kids had more of a sense that nothing had changed. I invited my ex husband to join us for the first Christmas post-divorce.

While it wasn’t easy for either of us, it made the kids happy

When it comes to discipline, Sam and I both decided that neither of us would discipline a step child, unless we were the only parent around at the time.

Neither of us wanted to risk one of the kids saying, "You can’t tell me what to do, you’re not my mum/dad!"

Reduce the pace. Speak with your child in an unhurried way, pausing frequently. Wait a few seconds after your child finishes before you begin to speak. Your own easy relaxed speech will be far more effective than any advice such as “slow down” or “try it again slowly. For some children, it is also helpful to introduce a more relaxed pace of life for awhile.

Now we’ve been together for three years and are all living together, it’s become a lot easier but anyone who says having a blended family is effortless, is not telling the whole truth.

It takes a lot of work, but I like to think love will get you through.

Khloe Kardashian plays with baby True

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Khloe Kardashian plays with baby True