If your relationship with your new partner is going well, you may eventually be thinking about blending your families. Introducing step-siblings to be can have its challenges; age gaps, different interests, jealousy… Taking things slow and keeping communication open can help you all through this journey toward a new family.
The first meeting
Speak with your partner before organising the first meeting to discuss your childrens’ interests and dislikes. Try to find some common ground to help you decide where to go and what to do for the first meeting.
Keep the first meeting on the shorter side, giving everyone enough time to make an impression, but not so long it may feel awkward or forced. Doing something where you don’t all have to be right in front of each other the whole time may work well, like a walk, the park, or the cinema.
If you can’t find an activity that suits everyone, let the kids know that the next time you’ll lean more toward the other interests in the group. Try not to force the kids to get along, it’s great if they do but let them know it’s ok if they don’t. If your child has a bad time, give them the chance to express this to you and validate the challenging emotions they’re going through.
Before moving in
If all continues to go well, you’ll likely reach a point where you want to move in with your partner and their children. Make sure your children are informed about this decision making process. While it’s ultimately your decision, ideally your children will be relatively on board with the move.
Moving houses is a big change for children, let alone moving in with new siblings. If your child is nervous or unhappy about the change, continue to make one-on-one time with them to talk through how they’re feeling. As long as you’re creating a safe environment, you may be able to explain how important your partner is to you, while reminding your child that you’ll always love them and prioritise them. Hopefully, with some time and support, they will start to adjust.
After you’ve all spent time together at each other’s houses, you might want to trial some sleepovers before moving in. Of course, this won’t be like sharing a home where everyone has their own space – some of you will be guests for the night. Spending this extended period of time together is a good chance to get comfortable and notice any potential issues.
Each parent can speak with their own kids about how they felt, and anything they might wish to change if you were to all move in together. You may wish to establish house rules and family rules before moving in together, such as dinner time, bedtime, communal spaces, chores (if your kids are old enough) etc.
The sibling relationship
Depending on the age gaps between your kids, your children may or may not form a strong bond outside of their connection to you. Although you might consider suggesting they don’t call each other their “step-sibling” and simply call them their sibling, brother or sister, don’t force it. Some children will be comfortable with this and others will not. This might depend on the age of the child, their personality and how well they get along with their new siblings.
To begin with, try disciplining your own children and letting your partner be the ‘good guy’. As you all become more comfortable in the home together, you can start calling a few of the shots with your step-kids (after discussion with your partner). It might help if, to begin with, you let your children feel like you are still their dedicated parent and that they aren’t competing with their new siblings for love and attention.
Your child may lose their “place” in the family, i.e. go from being the oldest to somewhere in the middle. This might shake up their sense of identity and belonging, so make time to speak with them about the change and reassure them that all the children are equals. If your children seem to be struggling with bonding to their new siblings or otherwise struggling with the change, you could consult a family therapist for support.
Create a dynamic of equality amongst all your children, and encourage them to speak with you if they find any of the changes to come challenging. It’s understandable that children may have a hard time adjusting to having a new sibling, but hopefully with time, they will grow to feel like family.