This can be helpful if you:
- are introducing your biological kids to your new partner's kids
- want to build relationships in a blended family
For teens, meeting new people can be awkward at the best of times. But when it comes to potential step-siblings meeting each other it can be a whole new category of super awkward.
Planning the first meeting
The first meeting is usually the most intense and it's hard to know where to start.
- Have a chat to your partner first, and talk about the meeting in detail. You’re both experts on your own kids so use this!
- Think about all the kids ages, and what might suit everyone.
- It’s a good idea not to make the meeting too long, and hour or so might be good for starters.
But where should we go?
- Think about somewhere that would be fun for everyone and not put too much pressure on.
- Food always helps! So, going somewhere to eat can make things more relaxed and eating can help fill any awkward silences.
- A neutral place where everyone doesn’t need to be in each other’s face all the time e.g. a park, can be a good option. And it’s free…bonus!
Getting to know each other - the next few meetings
It’s good to have a de-brief after the first meeting with your kids, as well as your partner, and think about what worked well and what was a ‘fail’. That way, you can build on what worked the last time and ditch the stuff that didn’t.
Slowly start to organise for the kids to spend more time together. Try and cover everyone’s interests, and think about going to each other’s houses, if it feels right.
You probably won’t all want to go to the same place all the time, so chuck-in some variety e.g. a dinner at home, then the local pool, then Maccas.
An ongoing relationship
Hopefully, once everyone’s past the initial awkward stage, relationships will start to hit their stride. Respect that some kids will click better than others, and try not to force it. It helps to space out time together so there’s not too much pressure, and encourage teens and older kids to get together without the parents there.
Different combinations of siblings will work better together e.g. ones who are close in ages, or have similar interests and it’s good to work with that. You might want to encourage them to connect on social media so they can start to feel part of each other’s worlds separate to you and your partner.
Moving in and beyond
For some families you’ll get to a point where it’s time to move in together. By this point everybody has hopefully had some time to get to know each other better. Whether they have or not, it worth having some test runs. Organise some sleepovers before everyone moves-in to see how it goes. It’s won’t be exactly like living together, but it will give you an idea of problems that show up, and what is working well.
Some ideas might be:
- Make time for family meetings to talk about ground rules and routines before new siblings move in.
- Decide things like who is sleeping in which room, and sharing common areas and items like the TV, lounge and computer.
- Talk about practical things like how the school run will go, what time dinner is, and any outside commitments, like sport, dance or tutoring.
- Listen to all opinions and try to take them into account when you're deciding on rules. A new family does not replace the old family, but the ideas is that they can add to it.
- Make sure you stay attuned to your biological kids and check in with them separately.
Of course, sometimes there’ll be challenges with building a new family and that’s ok. If things are getting tough you can talk to a ReachOut Parents coach about making a plan to move forward with.