Blended Family: Learning to Cohabitate

Cohabiting or moving in with your significant other is a huge decision to partake. Moreso, if one of the parties has kids.

Is moving in together with kids possible? The answer is a resounding yes. The bottom line is the decision to cohabitate is a choice that two individuals made. With proper planning, execution, and of course, love and understanding, everything will work out fine.

But, before diving in and moving together. Here are some moving in together advises that you should consider:

Find your motivation

Whether you are moving in to skip the formalities of a wedding or preparing for that long-time commitment, identifying what drives you to make this decision matters a lot. It matters as that will cement the relationship when the going gets tough. And it is going to get tough.

Both partners must share their motivations to each other to ensure they are on the same boat.

Recent studies show that two-thirds of US couples cohabitate before marriage. Of which, half of them end up in break-ups. Also, young couples who agree on living together rather than marriage showed lesser commitment. It somehow became a child’s play where everyone moves in the playhouse. But when things get rough, one gets kicked out or would voluntarily leave.

Thus, understanding the risk and instilling your WHY is critical in creating a healthy and lasting relationship. You wouldn’t want to be a part of the growing statistics.

Planning

With such a life-altering move, careful planning is necessary to get it started on the right track. The couple must sit down and have a heart-to-heart conversation where they lay down all their cards. Each step should be agreed upon by both parties, especially where children are involved.

Cohabiting didn’t happen overnight. Instead, it’s a result of countless days of sleepovers. And each time, one partner would leave a portion of himself, like toothpaste or clothing, in their partner’s place. Until they naturally decide to move in together.

However, moving together is easier for childless couples than it is for people with extra baggage. With children in mind, you have to be careful enough not to step on any boundaries that people involved may have. Here are a few things a couple should be planning about before moving:

• Both individuals must have a one-on-one couple talk and plan things through carefully. It can be as nitty gritty as which house they will move into, or will they be getting a new place. And consider how many rooms would be needed and if any of the kids need to transfer schools.
• Don’t ask the kids to decide whether you should move in or not. Adjusting to a blended family is already stressful as it is. Requesting the children to answer this question is like passing the responsibility or accountability to the youth.
• Talk to each other about your parenting style. You have to stay through on how the kids were brought up. Altering such behavior can cause confusion on your little charge. This is especially important in disciplining or rewarding them. Thus, it is essential that you lay down some ground rules.
• Speak to the children separately, without the partner. Knowing their views and apprehension will help you ease their anxiety, helping them realize that they are still your priority.
• Immerse the children to your partner, or your partner’s children. Plan getting-to-know-you dinner or a picnic at the park with everyone. Creating a routine involving each other could help the kids get accustomed to the new chapter in their life.

On Finances

Couples who choose to move in together must come clean before each other. Whether you have tons of debts to pay-off from student loans to credit cards, letting others know about these things is a reflection of your respect and trust for them. Trust is an essential element in any relationship, especially when both of you will be sharing a lot of things together.

Financial infidelity can be the start of further misunderstandings, which puts a threat to the relationship. The recommendation is for both parties to have their individual accounts to enjoy the fruits of their hard work. And put accountability in managing their finances, especially when there are expenses related to your own kids. Each partner can commit to share a portion of their income and save it in a joint account. This account is solely used to pay off utilities, groceries, and massive purchases like house and furniture.

Choosing to move in together as opposed to marriage does not guarantee that you are free from financial obligation. However, establishing an individual account, on top of the shared account, is also a security measure if anything goes haywire.

Division of chores

The couple must establish who does what. Defining duties and tasks are needed to create harmony inside the household. This is especially the case when you have children who were accustomed to specific tasks even before cohabiting.

Defining the responsibilities of each member of the family is necessary with the addition of new household members. Children who have been assigned duties before might have to relinquish them to the new adult in the house. Explaining this properly to the child will ease any doubt and feeling of being left out.

Pacing

The children who are impacted the most. Kids have different opinions and reactions to their parent’s decisions. Everyone has their own way of dealing with changes. Some adapt quickly, while others take time to embrace the new chapter in their lives.

When their lives have revolved around themselves and one parent, inserting a new figure causes disruption in their regular routine. Thus, it is essential not to force these young individuals to accept the situation immediately.

Allow them to blend in slowly, with the patience and guidance of the parent. Children are human, after all, and their feelings must be considered all the time. Crucial to point out that the new household member is not there to replace their dad or mom, but a partner in building and forming their family.

Territorial Instincts

Wolves mark their territory by urinating on a post. Although kids tend not to go that far, they too also have these territorial instincts. Notice how some teenagers would prefer to have their own room. They feel invaded when their parents suddenly burst into their room without invitation. So much more when a new person barges into their lives, claiming the position of a lost family member. To avoid these feelings of exclusion, here are things that you have to consider:

• Let the children speak up confidently. This will help them verbalize their frustrations and release their pent-up emotions. Having youngsters speak will make them feel valued and part of the growing family. Instead of letting them find their own way to vent-up in the form of sex, violence, or physical abuse.
• Acknowledge their issues. Make them feel that they are your kids, and they come first before others.
• Have an attitude of gratitude. Rather than shaming the children for being distant to their stepfamily, thank them for accepting your decision. People who are appreciated tend to do more. In time, they will come around and blend in naturally.

Moving Day

Transferring from one place to another is always stressful. Imagine bringing two families together that is chaotic! When you have little charges from 6 years old and below, they can be a handful when you have several things running at the same time. Avoid stress and plan things carefully.

• Hire an extra hand or ask a family member to look after your charges.
• Plan the floor plan in advance. If the house is big enough to accommodate one child per room, allow the children to choose their own place before the move. This to avoid conflict when the day comes. Although, it is not a 100% guarantee as some kids may change their minds on the very day. But, giving them the upper hand and allowing them to customize it will make them look forward to this day. Plus, the disclaimer that their room is not permanent and may change as they age.
• Minimize or avoid the physical stress in manual labor and hire professional movers to do the hard work. Ask the movers to set up the children’s playroom first, if you have young tots. This will unload the burden of chasing them around the house while everyone else is busy moving furniture around.
• Explore the neighborhood with the kids to familiarize themselves with their new environment. Meet new neighbors, visit the nearest restaurant or market, and stroll at the neighborhood park. Going out after a hard day’s work can alleviate the stress of moving in with your significant other.

Moving in with your partner is a milestone in every single parent’s life. Opening your door and heart once again is exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. And with kids in tow, it is a whirlwind of romance knowing that your partner has to agree to the package deal.

Cohabiting or marriage is not always the fairy tale ending. But, despite the circumstance you are in, love will always find a way. Open communication is a vital element to bridge the gap allowing blended families to live with each other. Be the example to your children, and future kids, that cohabiting (whether it leads to marriage or not) is a lifelong commitment. And that their parents love them no matter what.

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