Blended families can bring joy, togetherness, and the chance for deep familial bonds. But complex family dynamics might make you wonder how you can make a blended family work. This post will explore some of the challenges you might encounter if you’re going into or forming a blended family.
What is a Blended Family?
Blended families refer to a household that includes children not biologically related. For example, if a mother has two children from a previous relationship and a father has one child from a previous relationship, those three children and parents would come together to form a blended family.
Issues arising from merging families are becoming increasingly common. That’s because more families are blending than ever before. About 40% of U.S. families are blended, according to the U.S. Census.
Challenges of a blended family commonly include:
- Developing New Relationships – While your relationship with your partner may not be new, the relationship between your children and their children is. As with any new relationship, expect some rough patches as people get used to one another. Recognizing this potential ahead of time could set you and your partner up for less stress as you help your children navigate these new relationships.
- Strong Emotions – Depending on the age of you and your partner’s children, they may experience strong emotions regarding their new family. If the separation from their biological parent was difficult, these emotions may be even stronger. New relationships, new play partners, or new siblings to share (or maybe fight over) are all experiences that can bring up anger, excitement, happiness, or sadness.
- Different Parenting Styles – How does your new partner handle punishment? Is one of you more hands-on, and the other takes a more lax approach to parenting? Different parenting styles can cause challenges in a new blended family.
- Ex-Partners – Depending on custody circumstances, you and your new partner may be dealing with the continued presence of old partners/biological parents. Ex partners might cause you or your partner additional stress, affecting family dynamics.
- Partners Feel Neglected – Who comes first in a blended family? With so much focus on ensuring that children get along, the household runs effectively, and the family unit is strong, you or your partner might feel left out in a new blended family situation.
Making Your New Family Work
With a comprehensive list of challenges, how should you make a blended family work? Is there anything you can do to make you and your partners’ families combining easier?
Tips for making a blended family work:
- Give It Time – You can’t expect your child(ren), your partner, and their child(ren) to adjust perfectly to a new family dynamic and household structure. Practice patience as you and your partner work out the kinks.
- Limit Expectations – Your blended family will experience challenges. Things might not always be smooth sailing. If you’re expecting a Brady Bunch type of union, remember that even the picturesque Brady family experienced difficulties. Temper your expectations based on your knowledge of your family’s unique situation.
- Create Bonding Opportunities – It’s vital to provide adequate time for your children to bond with your new partner’s children. Additionally, set aside some time for the whole family to create memories and experience life together. Take care to develop individual relationships with your partner’s children as well. You are a new fixture in their life, and making an effort to cultivate a positive relationship with them can go a long way.
- Let the Bio Parent Take Charge – Your idea of the best parenting practices could be different from what works for your partner and their children. When in doubt, communicate issues with your partner and allow them to take charge of parenting their biological children.
- Set Boundaries, Understand Differences – It’s critical to set boundaries in your new blended family, not only with your new partner’s children but also within the family. Be sure to address what is okay and what isn’t regarding family members’ actions and words.
- Communicate – When in doubt, communicate. Many of the issues brought up earlier in this post can be lessened by communicating with your partner upfront before moving to be a blended family.
- Establish Expectations – What are your expectations for your partner? What are their expectations for you? Who drops the kids off at school? Who picks them up? Who’s responsible for what household chores? Be sure to run through established routines and how your new partner’s and yours can fit together.
- Create New Traditions – Things won’t be the same as before, and that’s okay. Try new things with your blended family and see what works. Creating new traditions provides an opportunity to bond as a unit.
- Seek Professional Support – Therapists specializing in family dynamics are called Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists. Depending on your family’s unique needs, consider researching family therapy. Additionally, mental health professionals can help you cope with your new blended family dynamics on an individual counseling level or for you and your new partner.
How All Counseling Can Help
There’s no simple advice for making a blended family work. There are stressors, advantages, disadvantages, and the potential for beautiful experiences. If the stresses of blended family dynamics become overwhelming, consider seeking the support of a mental health professional that’s right for you. Use All Counseling’s online directory to find a therapist that specializes in issues resulting from coparenting and family conflict.