In today’s modern world, more and more families are becoming blended. A blended family occurs when two separate families come together to form one stepfamily. As you can imagine, a blended family possesses its own unique set of challenges.
When two families come together, each brings its own history and ways of operating as a family unit. The way the families previously functioned will need to evolve to accommodate the new arrangement, but never fear — you can create a long-lasting, happy and healthy relationship as a new family.
It’s important to keep in mind, as within any family, there are challenges to merging two families into one.
They often include:
- Stress on parents balancing their children’s needs
- Social etiquette difficulties
- Conflicting family responsibilities and values with regards to appropriate behavior, daily chores and other expectations
- Conflicting roles of family members (this occurs mostly when the children are of different ages)
Fortunately, there are a number of solutions that have proven to help in overcoming these challenges:
Begin with realistic expectations and a positive attitude. Accept that you will experience challenges and frustrations, as all parents do. Surveys of remarried couples with children show parenting blended children is often the main reason for conflict within the marriage. The good news is that willingness to work together, and take the right steps to understand the needs of the children and how to provide them through structured co-parenting, will result in a supportive and loving blended family.
You will need to come up with a parenting plan that takes into account your new spouse and stepchildren. In a blended family, the parenting that worked for you in the past may not be as effective.
Since the new family involves individuals who have not lived together, a new set of rules has to be created to accommodate the changing family dynamic. It’s important to set boundaries, but remember to have compassion for your children as rules shift.
Empathy, Communication, and Respect
For this to work, communication is key. Even though you cannot force blended families to love each other, you can make successful strides toward constructive behavior and respect. Talk to your children if they are of an age where they understand the changes are occurring. Help them understand what is happening and be firm in your decisions. It is important all parties feel heard and loved as these big changes happen.
Prioritize one-on-one time. Being together as a blended family is great, but you do not have to spend all your time together. In most cases, spending some time apart is helpful and allows space to process the changes.
Each family needs one-on-one time without step-relatives, particularly so children feel they are still valued and loved by their parent. Mixing how each family spends time with each other strengthens the bonds in the stepfamily, and the blend does not have to happen over night. Take the time to evolve together, and do not feel you have to rush it.
Bringing two families together through marriage can present a variety of challenges. When two families come together and learn to truly respect and love one another well, it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.