11 May 2022

How to live harmoniously as a blended family

From Afternoons, 3:10 pm on 11 May 2022

American couple Lori and David Sims almost split up due to the difficulties of trying to blend their families. Then a counsellor told Lori five words that changed everything - they are not your kids.

Now Lori and David coach step-parents on how to have respectful relationships with their partner's children, without parenting them via the "Nacho (Not Your) Kids Academy".

Lori and David Sims

Lori and David Sims Photo: Nacho Kids

When Lori made jokes about how often the counsellor repeated the phrase 'they are not your kids' in their couple's counselling session, the couple laughed together for the first time in months, she says.

"It was just a revelation because I [was] creating my own misery. I [needed] to step back and let David do the parenting because they are his kids and they expect that from him and not from me."

The couple had researched how to successfully blend a family before Lori and her kid moved in with David and his four kids, but with step-parenting, it's a case of 'you don't know what you don't know', David says.

Knowledge you've gathered in a nuclear family simply doesn't apply in a blended family and what you did before might be very ineffective or even very negative, he says.

For many people, it's a relief to find out that blending families is a hard process for everyone and that what they're going through is normal.

Even though many step-parents feel the behaviour of their partner's children reflects on them as parents they shouldn't bear the burden of accountability, David says.

People in blended families can go through a lot of anxiety and depression trying to hold everything together with their spouses and stepkids, David says.

Some go on to develop great relationships and some never will because there's too much stacked against them.

"'For some reason, in stepfamilies, there tends to be not that grace that people give one another."

For David, becoming a step-parent was easier for him as Lori had only one child who was 3 when she moved in.

David, on the other hand, had eight-year-old triplets and a nine-year-old.

When his kids ignored Lori, the couple ended up in heated arguments until Lori discovered it was better for her to treat David's kids as she would a friend's kids.

"That's what you are to them", she says.

Now when Lori is home alone with her stepkids she takes on a "babysitter-type mentality" and tries to keep interactions positive so the relationship can build naturally and over time.

"Nachoing" you're partner's kids is not simply disengaging from them, she says, yet she did disengage from David's kids in order to learn how to respond, not react, to them, have more empathy for them, focus on her marriage and give up some control.

Oftentimes, one parent expects their partner to love their children the way they love their own but "it's okay not to love them period," Lori says.

You can learn more about Lori and David's philosophy on their Nacho Kids blog.

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