Blended families can be perfectly healthy and functional, they do present challenges that may not be as prevalent or intense within traditional families. According to research by E. Mavis Hetherington, author of For Better or for Worse: Divorce Reconsidered, blended families experience higher divorce rates, and children growing up in blended homes are twice as likely to struggle with depression or antisocial behavior. With these facts in mind, it pays to have a strategy for success.
A remarriage can compound the turmoil felt by children who have already experienced the loss and pain of a dissolved marriage.
While finding a new love is a source of comfort and healing to the parent, children are more likely to feel threatened, confused, and displaced by the change. The more time you can give your children to adjust to the idea of a new living situation, the better.
During this transitional period, children need reassurance and comfort. Listen carefully to your children’s fears and concerns, and be respectful of their need to stay connected to the noncustodial parent.
Experts recommend that new stepparents refrain from taking a primary role in disciplining stepchildren until they’ve established a strong bond with them. This can sometimes take years.
Children, teenagers especially, can be expected to rebel against the authority of stepparents. Spouses in blended families can combat this by privately agreeing to a disciplinary strategy and sticking with it.
Present a united public front to your children to reduce rebellion, and make sure that all children know and understand the rules. Apply all discipline consistently and without favoritism.
If you or your spouse has children from another marriage, you’re in what’s known as a blended family. According to 2001 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 15% of American children live in blended families. That number is expected to rise dramatically as family structures continue to change.
Getting used to living together takes time. Resentments may linger. Issues surrounding privacy, routine, individual habits, and personal space and possessions all must be worked out. Expect a period of adjustment and discomfort.
You can smooth the transition by maintaining as many of your children’s routines as possible. Help your children to maintain existing friendships and include your ex-spouse in special events so that your children aren’t made to feel disloyal.
Don’t push your stepchildren to spend a lot of time with their stepparent or step-siblings. Allow relationships to build slowly and naturally. Cast your children’s relationship with your new spouse as different and special rather than as a replacement for your former spouse.
Stepchildren may see their stepparent as competition for your attention and affection. Be sure to spend special one-on-one time with each of your children. Reassure them that they are important to you and that you love them more than anything in the world.
The Right Mix
Successfully blended families harmoniously merge old traditions and relationships with new ones. Through thoughtful devotion and planning, you can forge bonds that enrich the lives of all your family members while creating a healthy family environment.