Some of the Complexities of a Blended Family
First and foremost, there will be a grieving period. Regardless of the circumstances, a blended family stems from some type of loss. Possibilities include divorce, adoption, and foster care Another possibility is that one parent has died. Either way, it is a serious, dramatic change — especially for the children. Never underestimate the role of grief in this scenario.
Other complexities might include:
- Sibling rivalries transform into step-sibling rivalries
- It can be difficult for children to develop trust for a “replacement” parent
- The new couple may clash over differing parenting styles
- One of the new spouses may not have children and is therefore becoming a parent for the first time as a stepparent
- Visitation plans can feel like a minefield
- The presence of exes must be navigated with tact and respect
- An increase in household size can cause financial and logistical issues
- Children (especially younger children) may experience identity confusion as to where and how they fit in — and with whom
How to Deal With the Complexities of a Blended Family
It is never a good idea to suppress important emotions. This goes triple in a blended family. Stay in constant communication with your partner. Hold regular family meetings. Give every family member a voice and honor that voice.
There is no how-to manual. You will make mistakes and will learn as you go. Set realistic goals and give them time to marinate. Children especially will not do well under pressure so be patient.
The potential for chaos in a blended family is off the charts. You will be seeking a delicate balance. Give everyone a sense of structure without becoming a dictator. Again, communication and patience will be essential.
The best-laid plans of blended families often, well… get trashed. At some point, you will reach an impasse where you need to consider options B, C, etc. There are multiple people involved. The number of variables is impossible to count. Accept this reality and maintain an open mind regarding how to proceed.
Try New Ideas
What worked in the past — in a different family situation — probably will not work now. This is part of the grieving mentioned above process.
Creating new routines and new traditions serves a dual purpose:
- Forming new bonds
- Enabling everyone to move forward
Those regular family meetings are the ideal setting for this topic. But never lose respect for those who take a little longer to let go of the past.
Get Some Professional Guidance
With two-thirds of second marriages with kids ending in divorce, there is no shame in asking for help. This is a very challenging situation. Individual, couples, or family therapy can be the game-changer you desperately need.
Dealing with the complexities of a blended family is an ongoing process. There is no finish line or destination. Hence, you can really benefit from support and input from a therapist. I invite you to reach out at your earliest convince to set up a free consultation.