New Year, New Beginnings To Relate To

New Year, New Beginnings To Relate To

by Susan Millership

January is the time to take a breath and regroup after the exertions of Christmas. If it’s been a difficult period, Relate is available in your local area to offer support.

Some people find the Christmas holidays especially demanding because of difficult relationships with partners and family. These difficulties can be particularly acute in blended families where parents face a set of unique challenges.

Marie De’Ath, a counsellor from the charity Relate, which has centres throughout Sussex comments, “many people come and see us in the early months of the year because, after Christmas, they feel that they have reached crisis point. You can come and see us as a family, as a couple or individually. We have expert family, young people and children’s counsellors as well those who specialise in counselling couples. We know just how much pressure blended families can face.”

Happily, blended families can be as harmonious as any other; Relate Sussex has these twelve strategies that may help.

  1. Don’t force things. Give your children a little time and space to come to terms with a new partner and circumstances.
  2. If you have your own children, make time for them. They may be feeling anxious about their roles in the new family and worried about not being as important as they used to be.
  3. Reassure them about any stepbrothers or sisters. It’s important to address any anxieties your kids might have about new children coming with your new relationship.
  4. When it comes to discipline, be cautious. Discipline can be one of the trickiest aspects of being in a blended family. Generally, try not to assert yourself too quickly.
  5. Remain a parent to your own children. It’s important for your kids to see that you haven’t given up control of their lives to your new partner.
  6. Ensure that all the children who call the household a home have the same family rules and boundaries.
  7. Make planned and reliable arrangements. Talking to your ex can make things easier. It will really help your child if you can resist any temptation to use them as a messenger between their homes.
  8. Help your child stay in touch with their other parent and their family when they stay with you, for example by phone, text or email and try to keep things cordial as possible.
  9. Make a child feel at home in your home by creating a space that belongs only to them, whether a room or just some drawers.
  10. Keep communications open with the extended family. Children and grandparents and members of the extended family can enjoy enormously valuable relationships.
  11. Spending time as a family. Try to discuss when you are going to spend time together in advance and consider everyone’s feelings as much as you can.
  12. Make time to spend with your partner, when you concentrate on just your relationship.

Parenting in a blended family is not easy. If you would like more help and support you can contact Relate on 01293 657055 or 01273 697997 or visit

The Sussex Relate charities are looking for trustees and counsellors. If you would like to help us support local people of all ages, backgrounds and sexual orientations with their relationships and make a real difference, please contact Sue Quinn on 01293 657055.