Positive Parenting for Blended Families: 5 Tips for Success

blended family holding kids in laps and smiling

When yours and mine suddenly become ours a lot of changes occur. And if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing those changes at this very moment. You are now a part of one of the most prominent family structures in today’s society–the blended family!

I can assure you, I’ve worked with families of every style, structure, and size. Whether they’ve taken my FREE PARENTING WEBINAR or signed up for the Parenting Success System, you name it, I’ve seen it.

And though these families may look vastly different on the outside, I’ve come to learn that every parent–no matter what type of family they come from–wants the exact same thing. 

To see their family flourish!

But how?

Just as with any family, blended families face their fair share of tough parenting challenges. When navigating the muddy waters of co-parenting and step-parenting, the road isn’t always easy. But I promise you, it’s well worth the trip! 

Your new family can succeed! Using these 5 tips, there’s no reason you cannot become the positive parent you’ve always dreamed of being.

Tip #1: Make Time for Connection (With Each Child)

“You’re not my mom!”  

“My REAL dad never makes me take out the trash.”

“I hate you!” 

Do any of these sound familiar?

Maybe the stinging pain of a fresh divorce is still lingering in their young minds or the idea of having to answer to another parent is too much for them to handle. 

Whatever the case may be, when merging two families, it can be incredibly difficult to establish a relationship with the children involved.

I know how hard this time can be, especially when all the kids seem to do is push you away. But believe me when I say NOW is the time to cultivate those relationships and establish a connection!

Here are a couple of ideas on how you can do just that:

Mind, Body, and Soul Time (MBST)

There is no better way to get to know your new children than by spending quality time with them. And there is no better way to ensure the children you already have continue to feel loved and empowered than by doing the exact same thing.

So what can you do? Incorporate what I call Mind, Body, and Soul Time (MBST)–with EACH child, EVERY day!

I get it, the life of a parent is anything but slow. And life for a parent in a blended family? Forget about it!

Still, I urge you to make the time for MBST with your kids. It’s so important because parents who regularly incorporate this time into their daily lives see a positive change in their kids’ behavior! All you need is 10-15 minutes each day that you can spend with each child one-on-one, doing whatever it is they would like to do.

Put away the distractions and protect this time for connection. Schedule it on the calendar so kids know when it’s happening and most importantly, give it a name!

By giving this “special time” a label, kids will have a tangible way of describing your time together and you’ll get “credit” when you say, “I really enjoyed our Mommy & Avery time! I can’t wait to do it again tomorrow!”

Not only is this is a power-packed tool that will help you connect with each child, it will also help cut down on the amount of tantrums, attitude, and general misbehavior you see from your kids. 

Of course, the reality of living with a blended family means that you may not see your children every day. If that’s the case, fret not!

Use FaceTime to chat about their day or read a bedtime story together. Send them off with a handwritten letter (one for each day you’re apart) for them to read whenever they’re missing you. Make a plan to spend extra time together on the days that you have them.

The bottom line is, there are so many ways you can still make them feel empowered, loved, and important–even from afar. 

Plan Special “Date Nights”

When you were getting to know your significant other, chances are you learned a lot about one another while out on a date. You asked questions, had fun, and allowed yourself the time to truly build your relationship from the ground up.

Why not do the same for your new children?

Of course, there are a couple of rules: 

1) Each date must take place outside of the house.

2) Dates must be planned in advance, giving the child (and you!) something to look forward to. 

Try taking them to their favorite restaurant for dinner or out for a round of mini-golf. If money is an issue, no need to worry–great dates don’t have to cost a dime! Perhaps you go for a bike ride at their favorite park. Or pack a picnic and hit a local hiking trail!

Whatever it is you decide to do, make sure you have plenty of opportunities to talk. Ask them about school, their family, and especially their interests. Then work those into your time together.

Does your new step-daughter have a passion for dance? Maybe tickets to see The Nutcracker would make for the perfect Christmas gift. 

You can also ask them to teach you something new! 

Perhaps your step-son is an avid gamer? Why not make a connection and find some common ground while he’s showing you the ins and outs of Fortnite?

Whatever you do to reach out to your kids, just know that establishing an emotional connection takes time. But if you keep at it, persisting with love and attention, you’ll soon begin to feel the growing bond you’ve been longing for.

Tip #2: Set Up Family Meetings

Blended families ARE families–one unit! And when it comes to solving problems, getting along, merging schedules, and anything else you may need to coordinate, it’s best to work together.

Which is why I highly recommend setting up (and regularly sticking to) a family meeting.

Think of it like a business. Success comes when every person is on board. Family meetings provide a wonderful opportunity for every member of the family to get on the same page, connect, and problem solve.

Pick a time–preferably the same time each week–to have your meeting and stick to it! Then come up with an agenda.

Are your son and step-daughter constantly at each other’s throats? Are you having a hard time balancing everyone’s after-school schedules? Figure out what issues you may need to resolve and bring them to the table during this time.

Also, make sure that every family member–yes, that includes the kids–has a voice. Not only will this be the time you come together as one unit to problem solve and connect, but you’ll also be giving each of your children a huge dose of positive power and attention by allowing them to speak their minds and be heard.

Lastly, make sure it’s FUN! No one wants to show up to a meeting where they are just going to get lectured. Have a snack and plan a fun family activity to do at the end of the meeting — even if it’s just a dance party or going around the table and sharing a favorite joke. 

Pro Tip: For Positive Parenting Solutions Members, be sure to review Step 6. Here you will find out how to structure family meetings, check out agenda examples, and get a detailed list of what elements MUST be in place to make the Family Meeting most effective.

Tip #3: Model Respect

The funny thing about kids is, even when you think they aren’t listening, THEY ARE!

Which is why you should always be mindful of the things you say around them, even when you think they aren’t paying attention. 

When talking about your step-child’s mother, father, or the child himself, it’s important to make sure you’re always coming from a place of respect. Children have a way of picking up on negativity, hostility, and anger. And just as you want and deserve to be respected, your co-parents deserve the same thing.

The same goes for the kids themselves! Respect your children and they will respect you. By modeling this behavior, you are setting a wonderful example for how your children should treat each other and their parents.

Now, should you find it impossible to speak respectfully to your ex, Christina McGhee–divorce coach and author of Parenting Apart: How Separated and Divorced Parents Can Raise Happy and Secure Kids–recommends using one of a few highly rated mobile apps designed to help structure communication for co-parents (such as CoParenter and Truece). 

Pro Tip: Positive Parenting Solutions Members can find more information on divorce and co-parenting as well as additional mobile apps in the Battle-Tested Blueprint: Divorce & Parenting Apart.
Join Amy for a Free Class

Tip #4: Don’t Play Favorites

It’s been three months and your step-daughter still refuses to give you the time of day. You want her to like you so badly that you’d do just about anything to make her happy. That includes letting her stay up late on a school night.

Before this new union, your children have always had a strict 8 PM bedtime with little to no issues. But it seems each night your step-daughter stays over, she protests. You know you shouldn’t give in to her demands, but being a step-parent is so much harder than you ever imagined, so you cave and let her stay up a little later. Could it be worth upsetting your other children if it means getting her to like you?

We know as parents it is not our job for our children to like us…but it definitely doesn’t hurt when they do. Throw a step-child into the mix? Things get so much more complicated.

When changing up the family structure, it can be very easy to show favoritism toward certain children (intentional or not). Whether it’s giving your bonus child special privileges to get them to like you, or placing your biological children on a higher pedestal than the others, playing favorites is never a good idea.

Especially during those early days of blending families, it’s very easy for children to develop an us versus them mentality. Don’t give them any more fuel by playing into the idea that some children are more highly favored than others.

Tip #5: Limit Your Involvement in Sibling Squabbles

Your children will not always get along.

I know, shocking right? 

The thing is, many parents often forget that the same rule applies for step-siblings. Siblings fight!

The important thing for a parent isn’t necessarily figuring out how to prevent every disagreement they may have–who would have the time?–but rather knowing when to get involved in their arguments…and when to stay out.

Limit your involvement in sibling squabbles.

And how can you do that?

First things first–prepare! Make sure every child knows your expectations for how to handle arguments. (Helpful Hint: This is a great thing to cover in a Family Meeting). 

Conflict resolution skills are something every person on earth needs to have, and there is no better time to learn how to handle conflict than with a sibling. So give your kids the opportunity to fine-tune those skills and learn to work through their problems together.

Pro Tip: For Positive Parenting Solutions Members, review Step 5 for more on how to EFFECTIVELY stay out of sibling squabbles and how to turn sibling enemies into besties.

Of course, you should know when to give helpful adult intervention. Obviously, if the fight turns physical you would want to get involved. The most important thing to remember is that all of your children are siblings. So allow them to behave as just that–siblings!

stay out of fights quote

Final Thoughts

Like traditional families, blended families are faced with a myriad of challenges when it comes to parenting. But that doesn’t mean they cannot be happy, successful, and thriving when given the proper tools to do so.

Here at Positive Parenting Solutions, we want to support families of all styles and we want you to succeed. We offer positive parenting strategies for the exhausted parent, the frustrated parent, the step-parent, co-parent, and more! 

Whether you are having a hard time adjusting to life with new children, wanting to know more about how to parent positively, or are simply at a loss on how to continue forward with your kids–let us offer a helping hand.

I’d be honored if you joined me for a FREE ONLINE PARENTING CLASS, where I’ll show you how to get all of your kids to listen without nagging, reminding, or yelling. 

From our family to yours, we wish you the very best of luck with this new parenting adventure!

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.