Don't let the Brady Bunch fool you. Putting a blended family together is not easy, idyllic or stress-free. Your kids might not get along with your spouse's kids. Your spouse's kids might not be your biggest fan. It takes a while to become fully "blended." Spending time together as a family is essential to developing friendship and rapport among everyone, according to blended family expert and counselor Emily Bouchard. Plan regular family activities, as well as vacations and special moments, to bring everyone together as a family.
Schedule a family night at least one night a week and make that time off-limits for anything but family time. Do something different each week, whether it's going out to a movie together or playing a board game. It is important for everyone to focus on getting to know each other better and just having fun together. If you watch movies, let the kids pick out of a hat who gets to pick the movie. If you have a wide age gap between the kids, try to find games that everyone can participate in. Partner older kids with younger kids for card games like crazy eights or for games like charades.
Plan vacations when everyone can be together for at least a few days. On a vacation, step siblings can't just escape to their own rooms. Sharing a hotel room or a camping tent can be an opportunity for them to bond, even over how "lame," you and your spouse are for making them go on this trip. Plan engaging activities that everyone might enjoy, such as a museum with interactive exhibits for kids of all ages, or spending a day at the beach. It is also okay to divide up the kids by age or gender for certain activities. By being flexible and getting input from the entire family everyone will get a chance to do something they want on the vacation, lessening the chance of hurt feelings.
Your kids and your spouse's kids may have family traditions they shared with their once-traditional families. Be aware that they may miss these traditions. Create new traditions that are special and unique to your blended family. Maybe Saturday morning brunch, in which everyone helps out, could become a regular tradition when everyone is together. Perhaps gag gifts on birthdays becomes a tradition everyone looks forward to. If some of the kids in your blended family are only able to be there during the summer or on specific holidays, one tradition could be a welcome home mini-party, letting them know that everyone is excited to have them there.
Having the support of a step-parent and step-siblings can really help a child see them as family. So long as all parties involved, including the other parent, are aware and on board, take the whole family to support each child's events, whenever possible. The other kids in the family can make signs to support one of your kids at his soccer game, or your kids can present your spouse's child with a giant bouquet of flowers after her school play. The more support the children get from everyone in their lives, the more loved and special they will feel.