How To Build A Strong Blended Military Family

Blending two families to create one big, strong military family is one of the toughest and most rewarding challenges you’ll ever face. Your new family members may have never really understood what the military life is all about — they may not have even moved before. You can help your family transition with love, patience, and that unshakeable military spirit.

Keep Your Marriage Strong

Your marriage is the foundation of your new, blended family. In order for the kids to feel secure, even when their lives feel turned upside down, they need to know that their parent and step-parent are in love. They need to know that, even when one spouse is deployed, their family will continue to thrive in the warmth of their parents’ loving marriage.

It’s tough enough to nurture a lasting marriage. It’s tougher when one spouse is in the military, and doesn’t always have time to spend with their family, between deployments and other separations. Even so, the keys to a strong military marriage are the same as any.

Build your marriage on unconditional love, friendship and understanding. It’s easier said than done, but you’ll get very far just by being open to your spouse’s needs and feelings. Your spouse might be afraid to tell you if they’re feeling unhappy or having problems adjusting to life as a military spouse. Let them know that their happiness and their needs are important to you.

Be sure to read Sarah Peachey’s post on Love Dare challenges. If you feel inspired by her posts, create your own Love Dare challenge. Find a new ways to love your spouse each day, and remember to always, always work together as a team.

Marriage counseling is a very effective way to learn to communicate with your new spouse and set your marriage up for long term success and happiness. Most installations offer free marriage counseling and relationship building programs.

A relationship retreat program such as Marriage Care retreat program (Air Force), Strong Bonds (Army) or CREDO (Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard) is a great way to learn marriage-building communication skills and enjoy some valuable time with your spouse. You can find these resources by talking to your on-base chaplain.

MilitaryOneSource offers nonmedical counseling for military families, best for short-term help.To learn more, call 800–342–9647 or visit the Military OneSource website.

You can also visit your installation’s Military Family Life Consultant (MFLC) at your community services or family support center.

Raise Resilient Military Kids

Your newly blended family likely includes kids who have no idea what they’re in for. They’re going to move away from their family and friends, possibly when they’re too young to truly understand why. If you’ll be spending a lot of time away from your family, it may be very difficult to form the parental bonds they’ll need to cope with the changes.

Be patient, and set reasonable expectations from your stepkids. They may be overwhelmed, confused and hurt, but kids aren’t always great at communicating their feelings. They might be angry with you for marrying their parent and making their lives change. They might not understand why they have to move every 2–3 years, and start over with new friends and a new school. Encourage your kids to see moving in a positive light. When you lead the way with a positive attitude, your kids will find it easier to adjust.

Cherish the time you have between separations bonding with your stepkids, even if they’re not quick to warm up to you. Prepare your kids for deployment before you leave, keeping in mind how kids view time and separation at each stage of development. Take time to explain why being a servicemember is so important to you, and how much you appreciate their patience and understanding.

Help Your Family Reach Out

Your (very) extended military family is always available to help your spouse and kids thrive. Your blended family, as civilians, may not have been accustomed to reaching out for help or participating in their communities, but that will soon change. When you’re not around, they will learn to depend on the family services and networks around them. Whether your spouse is looking to grow their career, or your kids need a new school, there are military programs happy to help.

Reaching out is so important for kids. What many new military kids from blended families do not realize, at first, are the many perks that come with growing up in a military family. Get your stepchildren involved with programs and clubs that suit their interests, and encourage them to make new friends everywhere they go.

To help them stay connected, your kids can play games and chat online with other military kids at Military Kids Connect. Kids also love Operation Purple, a free week of camp with other military kids going through the same obstacles. A Backpack Journalist is a program that helps military kids express themselves with creative writing.

Visit your installation’s family services center for more ideas, or check out your branch’s Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) Programs: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force.

Be sure to check out MilitaryOneClick’s full list of resources for military families, and visit your local NextGenJustice location to protect your family with a range of legal documents. Drop us a line — helping military members and their families is our specialty.

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Originally published at nextgenjustice.com on November 6, 2015.