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A blended family (or stepfamily) is a family where one or both of the parents have children from previous relationships, as well as possibly children together. Some children will be part of two blended families, if both their parents have new partners. Whether you’re introducing a new partner as a stepparent or are becoming a stepparent yourself, becoming a blended family can be an exciting but daunting prospect. Here are some tips to help.

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Tips for an easier family life

Tip #1: Give everyone time to adjust

Becoming a blended family means things will change, and getting used to change takes time. Building relationships also takes time, so it’s important to take things as slowly as you can, to give everyone a chance to get used to the new situation and accept each other’s differences. Everything may not go smoothly at first, but being patient and understanding will really help.

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Tip #2: Get to know each other

 If you’re a stepparent, try to find things you can do with your partner’s child so you can get to know each other. Our pages on building relationships have ideas that could help:

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Tip #3: Spend time alone with your child

Mother and son talking in the kitchen

If you’re a parent, make sure you spend time alone with your child so you can talk about what’s going on and how they feel about it. Reassure them that even though things are changing, you still love them and are there for them, no matter what. Our page on encouraging your child to confide in you has more tips for helping them open up.

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Tip #4: Let them know that your new partner isn’t a replacement mum or dad

Some children may be upset that a new partner is trying to replace their mum or dad. They may take a dislike to them, or feel guilty if they like them. Try explaining to them that your partner is a new person in their life who’ll love and support them, and who they can have fun with. It may take them a while to get used to the idea, but this may help them understand the situation better.

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Tip #5: Decide on ground rules as a family

Two sets of families means two sets of rules – and possibly a clash of values. So it’s important to talk things through as a family about the rules and routines you’ll have before you all move in together, so things like bedtime, screen time, chores and mealtimes don’t become an issue.

Giving your children a say in the new rules will make them feel more valued and in control. And you could also use this as a good opportunity to work some fun into your routine – are there some activities everyone can agree on? Which night will be pizza night? Or movie night? Our page on making daily life easier has lots of tips for getting everyone involved in building a daily routine that works for your family.

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Tip #6: Don’t feel you have to solve every argument

Two girls sitting back to back with their arms folded, looking cross

News flash – children sometimes fall out! And that applies whether they’re siblings, friends or stepsiblings. So if they argue, while it can be tempting to step in and try to sort everything out for them, it’s a good idea to let them try to solve the issue themselves. Listen to them (without taking sides) and acknowledge how they feel, then encourage them to find a solution or compromise. This helps them learn to resolve conflict themselves, which is a great life skill to have.

Our page on managing multiple children has more tips for big families.

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Tip #7: Establish some new traditions

Many families have very firm views about how to spend Christmas, holidays, birthdays or other big celebrations, and your children may be upset at the thought that these traditions may change to accommodate their new stepsiblings. Try and find a way to compromise that won’t leave anyone disappointed – maybe combining two families’ traditions will make for double the fun! You could then think about establishing new traditions that suit everybody – this will help you bond as a family.

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Tip #8: Remember to spend time with your partner

Sometimes spending time with your partner can be the last thing on your list! But having fun together will remind you why you’re doing this, and help you make joint decisions and present a united front to the kids.

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Help and advice

Being a stepparent can be hard, but help is out there. If you need to talk to somebody, Children 1st’s Parentline is here for you and your family. The Spark also provides relationship advice for blended families.

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