‘’Imagine being stuck in a boat with your stepchild and biological child. As the boat begins to sink, you realize that you can only save one child, who would that be?’’ Wendy Malinda.

White dress, golden shoes, sweating hands, anxiety, joy and doubts are some of the common characteristics brides encounter on their D-day. While others pride of their resilience throughout their marriages, the ever-after dream does not last for some. No one marries to divorce and yet some experience it.

With divorces and separation on the rise, step families are becoming increasingly common in the world, and in Kenya in particular. Researches are however quick to highlight that second and third marriages have a much lower chance of succeeding. The inevitable question is how do you ensure that your subsequent marriages last? How do you ensure that you get your happy ending with your step family?

Wikipedia describes a blended family or step family as 'a family where at least one parent has children that are not genetically related to the other spouse or partner. Either parent, or both, may have children from previous relationships.'

Being in love tends to disassociate people from reality. More often than not, this state of delusion follows the 'i thought i was in love but it was infatuation' phase. What happens then next? Let's assume you get into your new relationship with children, how do they fit into this equation? Depending on their age, they can either revolt, retrieve, sabotage the new relationship or blame themselves for their parents break up. It is a difficult situation. Partners separate but they remain parents nonetheless.

Blended Step Family

Blended family can be very messy. They are several questions to consider and worth discussing before any big decision is made.  Who will the kids live with? In case both partners have children, will they be considered as heirs in the family inheritance, and to what proportion? In case one parent dies, do the kids return to the other biological parent or do they remain with the step parent? What would the implication be? How do you plan on disciplining the children? How different will your parenting style be?

As parents, how do you ensure that the baggage of your failed marriage does not ruin your next relationships? How do you communicate? How do you solve issues? What are your values? What do you believe in? How do you combine your values and believes to shape your family? To what extend do you allow your former partner in your new relationship? How do you handle finances? A look at the Bible and we get to appreciate the complexity of this blended family. While Sarah requested Abraham to get rid of his slave woman and Ishmael, their son, Joseph was hated and sold by his step brothers.

All may not be rosy but there can be light at the end of the tunnel. Below some few facts to help you and your partner prepare for this journey:

1. Be realistic: The children may not love you immediately and you probably won't either. This will become more apparent when they begin to respond differently from what you expected, and that is fine. Remember you are the adult, they are the children. Get into their world to influence them. Love takes time to develop.

2. Bonding: Do not separate the children from their parents. Encourage rather continuous interaction between the children and the parent. Let them go on dates without you. Reinforce their bonds through routines and rituals. Build their trust.

3. Time: Irrespective of their age, children need time to warm up to the new person and adjust to the step family. While boys may accept easily their step fathers, girls may take a little more time.

4. Appreciate the various roles: The biological parent will remain the most trusted person in the eyes of the kids. Accept it. He/she will also remain responsible for discipline. Do not fight it. This can change with time as they begin to trust you.

5. Encourage open communication: Remember that each family has its own history, expectation and culture. Blending a family is accepting that members will have different opinions and would want to take a stand. Encouraging respectful communication gives insights into the mind and heart of individuals.

6. Favouritism: Favouring one kid over the others can have a negative effect on children overtime and damage your family.

No one has the perfect life but everyone has the ability to create their ideal life, by being deliberate about their actions.