The Patchwork Quilt

Chapter 9: The Patchwork Quilt

Parenting

The blended family emerges like a phoenix from the ashes of previous relationships. Inheriting children and becoming a step-parent towards beautiful new design. The struggles and misconceptions that follow this new print’s cut can sometimes make for a hectic layout of confusion. Anticipation for a cheerful family right away may not meet your goals and may not be met with happiness when it comes to the children or former spouse involved from that past relationship.

Just like the tools and materials needed for stitching, everyone will have different expectations and worries when it comes to step-parents or siblings. Much like different patches before they are sewn into a quilt, we will always wonder how it will come together?    

Growing into a marriage will not happen overnight and may lag more in connection with the kids affected. In fact, children may feel like they have been thrust into a world of chaos. One set of rules for each household, multiple family dynamics, and a new kind of sibling rivalry on the horizon. On the other hand, maybe your new partner’s children lack discipline and respect?

  • The rules in a world of chaos. All families function differently, and you will find some resistance among the children and even sometimes the adults. A smooth transition can be a romantic thought, but reality will always teach us otherwise. Do not stress yourself out when it is not true to form, instead communicate with a tolerant and loving “solve it” approach.  
  • The attention everyone needs. Do not neglect any child, even if that means having family meetings at the table more frequently. Always address the elephant in the room and be aware of everyone’s feelings. Do not just skip over your own kids to make sure the other siblings are comfortable and engage with all the kids all the time. 
  • Merging the two companies. Trying to mesh two unfamiliar groups can cause worry and frustration, but a solid foundation can ease the burden by example. A strong marriage, even while growing into it, can make things seem more controlled. Make sure not to choose between your kids and the new partner who could put you in an unpleasant place. Expectations will fail you, so be open to not meeting them. 

Compassion and being civil between the natural parents of past relationships can pose issues for everyone, but what can be solved respectfully is what counts. Every situation is different so approach the relationship with a step by step method. Learn how to wear different hats between mediator and gladiator. Keep in mind the pinned quilt will always look different from the stitched one, but it is just the beginning. 

  • Death of a parent can be tough. When children who start out with a loss come into a “step” situation, it can bring grief back into the picture. They might make comparisons between the new parent from the former, which can take an emotional toll on the marriage. Just remember to always validate their feelings and show them it is okay to feel this way until they feel secure.
  • Who do you think you are? A step-parent can certainly get put into some tight spots, but you must assert your family’s position to be heard. As you connect within the new family, make sure to set boundaries with affection. Sometimes, the first family’s children will set the tempo but do not let them and shut down ultimatums right away. Be ready for any situation which can arise from this new layout. 
  • How to stay disciplined. Keep in mind everyone’s age difference and their needs as they grow. Allocate responsibilities amongst the age groups, establish respect for everyone in the household, and stay away from favoritism. Have a support system such as counseling or blended family groups for the challenges that may come.

Growth spirts in a stepfamily atmosphere can be dramatic. Learning curves can take a hit in you emotionally and with disappointment. Then as that united front is just a blip on the radar and some patches are not lining up, leaving you with a dysfunctional arrangement. This can make a tense situation worse when all we can see are the hanging threads.

  • Get the respect you deserve. Do not allow yourself to feel guilt or shame for having a new family. Show plenty of love for the situation and always respect the former partner. Life happens, and situations can get overwhelming, and even though real life can be scary to children, make sure emotional needs are addressed on both sides, so everyone is in the loop. 
  • A complicated blend. With holidays and traditions changing within a new family, some kids can feel forced into positions they seem uncomfortable with. The “new normal” is not a phrase they would appreciate, but it is one they may have to get used too. Offset bad feelings by making new traditions and creating new happy memories for these special occasions. 
  • Binding the quilt together. The boundaries of a new patch to sow are plain to see, and within a family must be the same with no corners being cut. Every adult involved must know how to incorporate the threads, with everyone pulling their own weight. Communicate your angles and make sure all subsequent patches follow the standards towards the direction of that magnificent quilt!

The bond created within a blended family is a medal of honor to showcase, a unique and complex design undertaken. Just make sure you maintain your marriage with date nights and time away from the children as needed. Keep adult situations out of young ones’ ears and eyes and follow your heart, not your feelings when it comes to unresolved problems.

With proper attention and bonding, traditions will fall into place and become routine once again. Your first family may never be replicated, but if everyone has a place and time to adjust, the seams intertwined for each patch will bring a new family together in all the right places. 

Angela Parish
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