In today’s world of various definitions of “family”, blended families are a prime example of familial bond and strength.
What is a blended family and what are some of its challenges?
- When a marriage involves children from one or both the partners’ children from a previous marriage, then the new family is called a “blended family”.
- Forming such families is fraught with challenges as the children often resist changes.
- Children often throw ultimatums and ask the biological parents to choose between them and the step kids.
- It takes a lot of work, effort, time, trial, and error to form such families.
How to deal with the challenges of a blended family?
- Both the parents need to be on the same page
Both the partners need to talk about their idea of family, parenting, traditions, expectations, and discipline to settle on common ground. This will be helpful for both the biological as well as the step-children to understand their new family arrangement. Some partners decide that each of them is going to be responsible for disciplining their biological children.
This arrangement can also work but both sets of children should be getting similar punishments in similar situations.
- Understand that things will be different
Dealing with a bigger family always means changes. While both the partners often try hard to ensure that they don’t introduce too many changes for both sets of children, the parents need to understand that some things must change.
You and your partner could have had different family traditions on holidays; different times for waking up or going to bed, different ideas on vacations. Discuss everything beforehand and settle on a common ground that will be easier for both the sets of children to follow. Whatever you do, ensure that you are not doing anything to trigger negative emotions in kids.
- Remember that the Ex is going to a part of the blended family
The Exes of both sides will be a part and accepting them into the blended family will make the step-children happier. The kids will now also deal with their step-siblings’ custodial timings which can make planning for family activities very difficult.
Some kids might also just visit on the weekends. Work with your respective exes and work out the custody timings to ensure that things go smoothly for all the children.
- Be accepting of your partner’s comments
Sometimes parents are offended if a partner is critical of their biological children. As long as your partner is not being unfair, hypercritical, or abusive; you should keep an open mind and hear them out. Also, if you are planning on having a baby, ensure that you are first preparing yourself for pregnancy.
- Prepare to deal with society
It is quite common for blended families to be judged about the number of kids and their parenting choices. The children often get teased about a large number of their siblings. Parents are often asked about their biological kids in front of step kids.
If one of the parents are close in age to one of their stepchildren, negative comments or judgments from the society can be an issue. Such situations are inevitable for blended families. A strong and united blended family remains unfazed by such societal judgments.
- Sibling rivalry is common
Sometimes kids of the different sides can be best friends, total strangers, or can be sworn enemies before becoming families. Either way, blending in can be a difficult process and sibling rivalry or arguments will break out often. The best way to deal with it is to be a plan for resolving sibling issues.
- Spend quality one-on-one time with each child
Both the parents should spend quality alone time with each of the children. While you should spend time with your biological children, your step-kids also need to know that you love them.
Remember, in every blended family there also exist multiple small family units and it important to nourish each of those units.
- Explain everything to your children
The best way forward is to let your children know about the changes that are going to take place. Tell them that some things will change and that they will have new siblings and a new parent. Tell them that you will treat them and their step-siblings equally.
But remember your biological children should never feel threatened and they should not think that you don’t love them anymore. Tell them that no matter what happens, your relationship and bond with them will always remain the same. This will help you ensure that you are raising a compassionate kid.
- Troubles of becoming a new parent
If you are marrying someone who didn’t have kids earlier or if you are marrying into a family without biological kids, it is very difficult to suddenly become a mother or a father to someone else’s kids. Becoming a new parent is always difficult. Talk to your partner about what is expected of you as a parent.
- Understand that the situation is difficult for your stepchildren
Always keep in mind that the adjustments and transformation to a blended family are very difficult for both the sets of kids. While the stepchildren feel that the step-parent is trying to replace their biological parents, your biological kids may feel disloyal if they accept their step-parent.
Understand that it will take time and effort to ease into this new dynamic. Tell them their feelings are natural but the stepparent is not a replacement but just another person who loves them equally.
Frequently Asked Questions on Dealing with Blended Families
1. How do children of different ages behave in a blended family?
While children below the age of 10 more readily accept a new parent, they also feel more competitive towards the step siblings. The adolescents often find it most difficult to adjust and they have trouble showing their emotions. They are also the ones who need the most emotional support and love. Teenagers though begin to form separate identities and are preparing to separate soon, also have some basic needs of feeling important and loved.
2. When to seek family counseling?
If any child is particularly misbehaving or ganging up on a step-sibling, is being continually distrustful to step-parent or step-siblings, if a partner openly favors any child all the time, if any child shows total disconnection and last of interest in family activities if the new adjustment is affecting the school performance of the children; it would be best to seek family counseling in such situations.
3. How to make a “blended family” work?
Teach the kids to be respectful towards everyone in the family even if they don’t like it. Listen to your children, learn from the mistakes, show love by praising verbally, let the children set the pace, and gradually form bonds with every member.
Nobody ever says that forming a blended family is easy. But slowly and surely a close-knit and affectionate blended family will bloom if both partners are willing to plan things out and work for it. It can be often stressful to see the stepchildren and also the biological children not liking you even when you are trying to do everything you can for them.
Rewarding relationships where the children accept the step-parents and step-siblings as own will take patience and love but it will happen over time.
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Mother of Two children. I’m a former teacher with a background in child development and a passion for Good parenting. I understand child development and know how to develop activities to help children learn and grow. Spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family, reading, and volunteering in my community.