by Gabriele Schorb Machado~
Divorce affects more marriages than not, and “blended families” are very common.
Following is a list of common challenges that might arise in blended families:
Children may be accustomed to different parenting styles. They can experience stress due to parents not getting along with each other, or with the other step-parent. Blending families also leads to economic changes and sibling rivalry can be taken to a new level, as children may feel compelled to compete for attention and dominance in the new household. They may also struggle with issues such as jealousy, confusion, animosity, resentment, rivalry, loyalty and loss. If there are step-siblings, the children of both parents may feel like they are losing their remaining parent to the new spouse.
All in all, blending families present many unavoidable challenges. Although, increased stress in a new family situation is normal, it can be minimized by considering the following:
Blended families have the highest success rate if the couple waits two years or more after a divorce to remarry, instead of piling one drastic family change onto another.
Don’t expect to fall in love with your partner’s children overnight. Get to know them. Love and affection take time to develop.
Find ways to experience “real life” together. Taking both sets of kids to a theme park every time you get together is a lot of fun, but it isn’t reflective of everyday life. Try to get the kids used to your partner and his or her children in daily life situations.
Insist on respect. You can’t expect people to like each other but you can insist that they treat one another with respect.
Limit your expectations. You may give a lot of time, energy, love, and affection to your new partner’s kids that will not be returned immediately.
Don’t try to make a blended family a replica of your first family, or the ideal nuclear family. This can often set family members up for confusion, frustration, and disappointment.
Embrace the differences and consider the basic elements that make a successful blended family.
If the stress of blending a family leads to significant stressors for anyone in the new family unit, don’t hesitate to seek family therapy.
Marriage and family therapy is one of the most effective ways to help a blended family work through the issues that each member brings to the new family. Parents must also sort out their new roles and set boundaries with regards to parenting, discipline, and time. Family therapy can help address these issues and provides a platform for each member to voice their feelings in a respectful and loving way. Children can express their fears and concerns and discover their place within the new family unit. Parents can learn how to maintain a healthy relationship with their children while building a new and loving bond with their spouse and step-children.
The following are some resources for blended families:
Stepcoupling: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Marriage in Today’s Blended Family by Susan Wisdom and Jennifer Green (Feb 26, 2002).
Building the Bonds of Attachment: Awakening Love in Deeply Troubled Children by Daniel A. Hughes (Aug 8, 2006).
Wisdom On Step-Parenting: How to Succeed Where Others Fail by Diana Weiss-Wisdom Ph.D. (Oct 26, 2012).
Love Him, Love His Kids: The Stepmother’s …Stan Wenck.
How To Screw Up Your Kids: Blended Families, Blendered Style Paperback by Pamela Fagan Hutchins.
Smart Stepdad, The: Steps to Help You Succeed by Ron L. Deal (Apr 1, 2011)
Smart Stepmom, The: Practical Steps to Help You Thrive by Ron L. Deal and Laura Petherbridge (Oct 1, 2009)
Raising Children in Blended Families: Helpful Insights, Experpert Opinions, and True Stories Paperback by Maxine Marsolini .
Do You Sing Twinkle? A Story about Remarriage and New Family Paperback.
My Bonus Mom! Taking the Step Out of Stepmom.
Mom’s House, Dad’s House: Making two homes for your child Paperback by Isolina Ricci Ph.D.
Two Homes Paperback by Claire Masurel (Author) , Kady MacDonald Denton.
When Mom and Dad Separate: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief from Divorce Paperback by Marge Heegaard .
My Mom and Dad Don’t Live Together Anymore: A Drawing Book for Children of Separated or Divorced Parents Paperback – January 1, 2002 by Judith Rubin.