By Edward and Sharon Douglas

When two families come together through remarriage, there is plenty of room for difficulty. Children may react negatively; an ex-spouse may become a problem; the marriage relationship itself may become strained. That’s why it’s important to establish an agreement at the beginning of your marriage. This list of 21 items may seem overwhelming to you. In that case, make an effort to take three or four of these items and establish an agreement for you family based on those.
The following are a few suggestions:

  1. Description of husband’s and wife’s biblical parental roles in the home.
  2. Information contained in visitation agreements and other court agreements.
  3. Establish couple time together (vacation without children), as well as other times away from children.
  4. Agreement on family quality time together.
  5. Plan in advance for holiday/parental visitation so that children know what is expected.
  6. Parameters relative to outside influences, particularly with ex-partners.
  7. Child-rearing values.
  8. Agreements on what children will call the stepparent.
  9. Financial issues such as establishing an annual spending plan or savings plan to pay for children’s expenses such as college, outside activities, clothes, toys, summer camp, healthcare expenses, etc.
  10. Expectations of visiting children, and children living in the home. (Chores, bedtimes, schoolwork, etc.) Adolescent, young adult, and adult children must be included in the agreement.
  11. What role each parent will play in disciplining the children. If parents are in disagreement in the area of discipline, seek professional help. Parents must be in agreement.
  12. Rules of the home.
  13. Family worship.
  14. Family meeting. Use this time to make changes to the agreement, if necessary.
  15. Establish a time that the biological parent can be alone with the child or children, to help maintain the relationship and to help overcome the loss.
  16. Include the stepparent’s quality time with stepchildren to help develop the relationship. For example, doing a school project together, going out to the movies, or doing special activities of interest to the stepchild.
  17. Establish ideas for new family traditions. Remember to include past family traditions. Get ideas from the children.
  18. Indicate how tasks and household responsibilities will be shared in the family. Responsibilities must be based on age.
  19. Discuss setting aside a private area for visiting children so that they feel part of the family home. Agree on where this should be. You want to designate an empty drawer that will remain empty until the child visits.
  20. Agree on what will be kept at the home for visiting children. (Toys, clothes, etc.)
  21. Discuss how to minimize the attraction visiting adolescents or young adult children may have for another adolescent or young adult child who lives in the family home.

This agreement should be formalized based on your unique situation. It should be discussed and updated periodically as circumstances change.

From the book The Blended Family by Edward and Sharon Douglas. Printed with Permission.