It's that time of year again for resolutions and bold declarations of "new year, new me." Here at HuffPost Divorce, we're a little less drastic when it comes to making New Year's resolutions. Now that it's nearly 2015, we're pledging "new year, way less stressed-out stepfamily."
Below, nine resolutions to consider sticking to based on what we've learned from parents in our Blended Family Friday series last year.
1. Quit trying to force a relationship with your stepkids. You may have bonus-parent dreams, but let it happen naturally.
"My stepdaughters have two really great parents who love them to pieces. I don't have to be the 'mother' -- they already have a mom. I support their father with parenting, but for my personal relationship with them, I get to really enjoy the kids." -- Brynn Bruno
2. Make regular family meetings a priority, even if it feels a bit forced at first.
"Early on in our marriage we began having weekly family meetings. This established a forum for good and healthy conversation. It wasn't always easy conversation and at times it was confrontational. But it was important to us that we learn how to communicate." -- Sandi Patty
Photo courtesy of Sandi Patty
3. Carve out some time for date night with your spouse. (Bonus points if you don't talk about the kids.)
"As a couple, my husband and I insist on having date night twice a month. It's pure enjoyment and relaxation: no kids, no dogs, and no stress. We also travel twice per year -- once with our kids and then alone. It's important to maintain your marriage outside of your kids. My husband and I always start to talk about our kids when we're away, but we're learning how to stop ourselves when we discuss them too much!" -- Lisa Liggins-Chambers
4. Don't badmouth the other parents. Really, it's not worth it.
"Talking trash about the exes or surrounding yourself with people who like to engage in that kind of talk is generally not a good idea. (I know, I know -- we've ALL done it, but make an effort to stay positive.) We want to aim for our higher selves on this front. Embrace your spouse’s ex. He or she could turn out to be an unexpected ally and maybe someday -- as in my case -- a really good friend." -- Kama Fletcher
5. Accept that there's no neat time frame for truly feeling like a family.
"When you blend two families you change everyone’s world. You hope it's eventually for the better, but the challenge is to take one day at a time and realize that what you want -- a new partner who you will spend the rest of your life with -- may not be what your children want. You deserve to be happy but it may take time for the kids to accept the new plan. Couples who are remarrying need to understand that." -- Rob Walker
(Photo by Sean O'Rourke)
6. Communicate with your ex. (Otherwise, you better believe your kids will play the two of you against each other.)
"Since I remarried, my son is doing really well, but he still sometimes tries to play the parents against each other! Sometimes he will say, 'but daddy says…' or 'but Jeffy [his stepdad] lets me have candy…' The trick for us is maintaining communication with each other and doing our best to create consistent rules and boundaries. We always laugh when we are all in the same room together, because he will go from one parent to the next trying to get one of us to say 'yes' when the first parent says 'no.'” -- Claire James
7. It’s totally OK to allow each “subfamily unit” to have their special time together.
"So many newly blended families (ours included) expect an instant family unit, but it doesn’t work that way. It’s OK if one biological parent takes his or her biological kids out for an old family tradition or just some quality time alone together as the “original crew.” That doesn’t mean failure as a new stepfamily. It just means you acknowledge there was a family before the stepfamily, and that is OK." -- Rachel Pross
8. But make a point to really savor the moments you have as a collective family.
"My husband loves the 'happy reunions' we experience every week. Each Wednesday, Edwin and Ellie come home and we get that awesome “yay, we got the band back together” moment. Kids are easy to take for granted, and this keeps our times together precious. As for me, it’s seems corny, but there’s more to love. I love Edwin and Ellie as if they were my own flesh and blood, and my husband loves my children as his own too." -- Cassandra Barnhart
9. Take the pressure off yourself to be a "perfect" family. Perfect families don't exist.
"Let me assure you, 'perfect' isn't going to happen. You are going to have a bad day where everything goes wrong, you are going to raise your voice and make the angry face (as my 5-year-old likes to call it). Your partner won't be perfect, either; he or she will make mistakes, you won't always agree on everything and you will both feel overwhelmed. The kids will have bad days, too -- days where they cry over broken Lunchable crackers (been there!), times where they will say they want their other parent. There will be moments of complete chaos and havoc will come at the worst moment possible and you'll think you can't do it anymore, but I can tell you from experience, those days don't last. Moments of craziness are quickly replaced with hugs, kisses, pillow fights and movie nights. The feeling of defeat gets knocked to the back-burner by feelings of more love than you ever dreamed possible. Pick your battles with everyone, including yourself ... Remind yourself everyday that you have been given another chance at love and cherish that opportunity." -- Jessica Warrick
If you'd like your own family to be featured on Blended Family Friday, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're looking forward to hearing your story!