Blended families make up more than 190,000 Australian households – or seven per cent of all families. While merging two sets of parents and children is never easy, it’s particularly tricky in the beginning when you’re yet to establish new routines, relationships and traditions.

Parents and carers might like to try these strategies to help encourage family cohesion:

  • Establish ground rules for how you will live together, then transition into day-to-day life by giving everyone time to get used to the new ways of doing things. Deal with issues as they come up – don't let them build into big problems. Make sure that everyone has a chance to contribute and to voice their concerns.
  • Focus on building individual relationships with step-children before becoming involved in discipline. Set aside a regular time to enjoy an activity with your step-child. Get to know their day-to-day habits and be there to support them through difficult situations.  
  • Once you’ve developed trust and respect with your step-children, ease into discipline. 

Above all, remember that families don’t become cohesive overnight and sometimes it can take a long time for each member of a blended family to develop relationships with others. Family activities and shared fun can be useful for building relationships, but be aware that getting everyone together can sometimes not go as planned. Sometimes it takes time for relationships to develop and there's nothing you can do to force it – just try to create opportunities for everyone to enjoy being together. 

You may also be interested in the KidsMatter resource about happy families working together and the Raising Children Network resource on Step-parents.