Moving in together is a big decision. When one or both of you have children, that decision affects more than just you and your partner. Wheaton World Wide wants you to make the right move by knowing what questions to ask before moving in together with your kids.
We’re not family therapists, but we’ve been around a few blocks. We know that kids need time to adjust to a new relationship and a new living situation. With nearly 50% of marriages ending in divorce, we see new-start families moving in together every day.
Building a blended family takes time and effort. There will be missteps and mistakes, but with some thought and planning your move can be a magical life change for all involved. Here are our tips to make moving in together with kids a positive experience:
Kids thrive on a predictable routine. When their expectations are suddenly challenged, it can create stress and anxiety.
While it’s smart to keep your new romantic relationship separate from your kids when you begin dating, you’ll want to gradually include them in the loop as you move toward cohabitation.
Make your kids and your partner’s kids part of the decision-making process. Once you’ve told them your intention to move in together, give them a voice in everything from where you’ll live to what color they can paint their bedrooms. The more in control kids feel, the easier big transitions like moving will feel.
Take Your Time
Like all important life changes, give moving in together plenty of time. The more time you give everyone to adjust to the idea and work out their feelings, the smoother things will go when it finally happens.
You may feel in a hurry to spend your life with that special new love of your life, but don’t exclude everyone else’s needs. Give your kids time to get to know your partner and their kids. Let them warm up to the idea of living together under one roof, and give them time to form their own vision of the new family. This gradual move towards a future together allows everyone to move at their own pace.
Make slow, intentional transitions. Spend time together: have sleepovers, travel and develop a familiarity that is comfortable. You want to make sure this arrangement is going to work for everyone, including yourself. Learn how to mediate conflict before you live together. It’s up to you and your partner to model good conflict resolution skills in front of the kids.
Be on the Same Page as Your Partner
Make sure you and your partner are moving in for the same reasons. Sit down and outline your expectations for the future, and have a plan for moving forward.
Kids are expert detectives. They can sense when there isn’t a united front. If they suspect that you and your partner don’t agree on the reasons for moving in together or how the new house should be run, they’ll expose those cracks in the foundation.
Discuss with your partner your parenting styles and how you will handle conflict. Develop a financial plan. Dividing up expenses, especially when one of you has kids and the other doesn’t, can be contentious. Maybe your partner doesn’t expect to pay for your kids and vice-versa. Make sure you understand where you each stand, and find a resolution that is equitable.
Set house rules, and establish healthy boundaries. When you give kids a strong but loving framework, they will thrive rather than second guess their place in your newly blended family.
Maintain a Positive Relationship with Your Ex
If you continue to co-parent with your ex, things can become messy when one of you moves in with a new partner. Suspicion, hearsay and lack of trust can conspire to sabotage your new relationship.
Invest in a positive relationship with your ex. This can be difficult if not impossible in some situations, but if you have to work with them, you might as well try to make it as positive as possible.
If your new partner has an ex they co-parent with, your relationship with the ex will benefit from a positive relationship between the two of them.
Don’t go it alone. Family, friends and even professional support can help as you move into your new living situation.
Make sure your kids stay connected to their peers and family. They’ll probably want to continue to go to the same school, see their friends and keep family traditions. If you are relocating, try to maintain some connections and routines.
Self-care for adults includes keeping up your relationships, too. Your move probably feels consuming, but getting support from close friends can be huge. Stepparents and others who have been through a move with kids are an invaluable resource to learn from.
Individual or family therapists are an excellent resource for handling the emotional work around big life changes. A good therapist can help you work through hard feelings and resolve past issues that could come into conflict with your new home.
Consider That Your Child May Grow to Love Your Partner
One of the worst things that can happen when a couple moves in together is that the kids develop a strong attachment to the new partner, but things don’t work out. It’s estimated that half of all children of divorce will witness the dissolution of their parent’s second marriage too.
Your kids have already been through one big break up. Another break up could be devastating. Prepare for conflict and hiccups along the way. Your kids may even act out against you or your partner, but patience and understanding will win out. Go all in for the long haul.
Make sure your kids know they’re still the center of your universe. Schedule times for one-on-one activities. Kids need to know they can still get you all to themselves despite all the changes.
If your kids have a positive relationship with your partner, encourage them to have special time together, too, without you. It’s a great way for them to get to know each other and build a stronger bond. Likewise, consider scheduling special time with your partner’s kids to foster that new relationship and build trust.
Take the Stress Out of Moving in Together
With so many exciting changes going on, look for ways to reduce your stress and anxiety. One way to do this is to hire an experienced moving company to handle the heavy lifting. Combining two households is a monumental task, especially for a single parent. We know you can use all the help you can get.
Contact Wheaton today. We’ll put you in touch with your own personal moving agent who can finesse difficult moving logistics and get you moving toward a bright future together.