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Go slowly when building a blended family

Many divorced parents have no interest in getting into a new romantic relationship for some time after their marriage ends. They're still adjusting to their new lives. Often they want to be single for awhile. More importantly, they don't want to introduce a new significant other into their children's lives.

However, eventually, many divorced parents are ready to seek out a new partner, or love finds them when they aren't looking. When things get serious, whether you marry your new partner or not, if he or she becomes part of your family, you need to set clear boundaries and expectations regarding that person's relationship with your kids.

It's important not to rush the process. Relationships between children and their parents' new partners take time to build -- for both sides. It's good to encourage your new partner to spend some time alone with your kids, but start small. See how a dog walk or a game of hoops goes before sending them off on an all-day outing.

Don't ever present your new partner as a replacement for your children's other parent. The more supporting, loving adults children have in their lives, the better. While it's natural that these new partners want the kids to love them, they should never criticize or belittle the children's other parent in front of them. Your kids should never be asked to choose between your partner and their parent.

Many parents who meet someone new begin to make everything a "family affair," including their new partner in all of their activities with their kids. However, it's essential to continue to have time alone with each of your children. If they never get to spend time with their mom or dad like they used to, it's easy to become jealous and resentful of the new person in their lives.

Blending a family takes time and patience. When your new significant other has his or her own kids, it can be even more complicated. It's essential not to force any relationships, but to let them develop naturally over time.

If you need guidance or support in dealing with a blended family, your North Carolina family law attorney can likely recommend some resources for you. He or she can also help if you need to make any changes to your parenting plan.

Source: Our Family Wizard, "The Unsure Stepparent: Building a Confident Blended Family through Clear Expectations," accessed April 05, 2018

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