We know, first hand, how challenging it can be to blend two families together as one. We also know the extra challenge that is presented when you’re not only blending two families, but two or multiple cultures together in the same family.
For us, for the last two years, we’ve been blending our two families together also with the cultures from the United States and Belgium. It’s not always easy and we’ve learned a lot through making some mistakes a long the way.
It is this fact alone why we wanted to write this blog & give you some guidance and things to think of while you and your family aim to blend your families and cultures.
We all grow up in our own families, our own countries and our own cultures in which, whether we realise it or not, shape our definition of NORMAL. Any couple will tell you – a challenge they must overcome – is adjusting to and getting to know one another’s “normals.” This is no different in a blended family – in fact – there are often many more controversial and possibly “strange” normals for you and your new family to adjust to. There is the normal of your spouse to adjust to, their culture or country and then the family culture they’ve created with their children. As you create your own normal together as a family, it is very important that everyone seek to understand each other, have patience, and have some fun getting to know one another’s normals.
This one almost needs no explanation of what a challenge it can be. Some parents find it hard enough to connect with their kids, especially teenagers, but it’s even more of a compounded struggle when there’s a mix of languages in the house. You may find yourself speaking 2, 3 or more languages in your house on any given day – and rest assured – it can be very difficult and frustrating. However, we would encourage you and your family to find a “common language.” As you begin to learn one another’s languages, communicate together on what words are important to you, see what tasks you can do to learn each other’s language better (Ex. take classes together, create Flashcards, download Duolingo & etc) and again, take a deep breathe, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
One of the beautiful perks of family is having an automatic support system for you during the beautiful & hard times. However, when you are in a blended family with a blended culture, you may find yourself living hundreds to maybe thousands of miles from your blood family. It may not be as easy to drop your child off at their grandparents or take them to the places you enjoyed while growing up.
Being in a new culture/country, may require you to take new methods of transportation to get to and from. This was my experience when moving from the USA to Belgium where I had grown up relying on an automatic car to trying to drive stick & getting places 95% of the time by tram or bike. I would encourage to be open to trying new things and help you and your family get creative by connecting through apps and social media. Perhaps you could schedule video chats during times that work for you and your family’s time zones or take extra-long vacations there during the summer. Either way, blending a family from different cultures takes intentionality to make sure the children, especially the bonus children, get to know your family & customs, and make that distance not feel so great.
When you’re blending two families, it becomes abundantly clear from the very beginning, we all have our own thoughts, opinions and beliefs. People’s spiritual beliefs are not only very personal but what’s guides them with their decisions and actions in life. When two families come together, there will more than likely be different beliefs and ideas held that conflict with each other. In some countries, the beliefs/religion is the law of the land and the government follows the belief of that faith. Even in some families, it may be important for the spouse and blended children to follow the new faith with their customs, holidays and etc. We experienced this when I, a devout Christian, began dating Kim, who was spiritually curious & open, and we intimately discussed our beliefs and sought to come together – rather than it tearing us apart. Over time, and still to this day, we don’t always agree or see things exactly the same, but we respect one another and aim to give each other time and space to ask questions and our hearts be heard.
This may be the least fun and least popular thing yet! If there is one thing people hate talking about most – it might just be POLITICS! However, inside a blended family with blended cultures, you’re more than likely to address, whether in your house, or the extended family a different political opinion than yours. That is completely ok! As long as you can “agree to disagree” and seek to find more of what unites you, than divides you, you and your family will navigate these tricky waters. If you find yourself living in another country then the one you grew up in, you may have to respect governmental policies that you’re not used to. It will be an adjustment, however, one that can be elevated by your spouse if you open up, share how you’re feeling and have that consistent communication. Let politics be a reason you all come together – instead of tearing you apart.
Holidays are often paired with different faith backgrounds, customs and history. When you have a blended family & a blended culture family, you may find yourself having a very busy December. In our family, we are celebrating my bonus daughter’s birthday, Sinter Klas, Christmas, New Year’s and 3 Kings Day all in the matter of a month! Whew! Where it can be something that’s overwhelming and exhausting, you can look at it as an opportunity to celebrate more. As holidays are very interwoven with culture, create opportunities in your house to bring the family together and learn about one another’s holidays.
In some cultures, the customs can be quite obvious and where others can be very silent and unspoken. Sometimes, you’re breaking customs you didn’t even know about! Customs are the one part of blending two families from two different cultures together that might take the most patience. Customs are something that is ingrained in a person from the time they were a baby, so it’ll take sometime for you, the new person to the culture, to learn and adjust to. It might even take your spouse some time to understand how to teach your the customs, as they will discover through your eyes, what customs are unique to their culture. It could be pace of living. It could customary greetings. It could be what days of the week you can shop on or how the school system functions. Whatever it is, involve the whole family in the conversation in how the customs don’t come naturally to you and it might take some time for you to make the adjustment.
Everyone’s communication style is different. You may be a big talker, while your spouse may need to think things through and be a little more reserved. Either way, it is of utmost importance that you and your spouse communicate about all of these things above. In fact, we’d even recommend you OVER communicate. In the blended culture family, you actually get to cut each other a break when it comes to communication – often because of language differences – you may be used to having to confirm you’re on the same page and make sure you’re understanding each other properly. Just GO with it! Enjoy it, don’t forget to laugh and make some new memories.
We know there are many challenges when it comes to blending families together – and that it’s only more challenging when you’re also blending multiple cultures. HOWEVER, take a chance with us and aim to see the CHALLENGE as the most beautiful and awesome OPPORTUNITY in the world. You WILL experience frustration. You WILL experience fear and have to navigate difficult conversations and situations.
However, through it all, you will be giving your family the blessed opportunity to be more united, stronger, well rounded and loving human beings. Challenge always comes before the transformation. Challenge will always be at the starting line of victory.
If you and your blended family are struggling with how to blend your multiple cultures and would like to be surrounded by positive, uplifting and encouraging families just like yours, come join our Facebook group by clicking the link below….
You don’t have to do this alone. We’re so happy we don’t anymore. We’ve discovered that not only are we doubly blended…we’re also double blended. There’s nothing we want to change about that.