Blended Families Are Hard
Blended Families are hard. So let us just say that out loud. There are often children who are involved that did not ask to be from a divorced home. There are second marriages that often contain higher stakes due to navigating the world of bonus parents and stepchildren. Often, there is also just added pressure of not wanting the rug to be pulled out from under you, yet again, because at the end of the day, you cannot have more than one failed marriage. There are some ways to help with these challenges that blended families can bring because they can also bring so much healing and joy to all those involved. Being aware of some of the pitfalls and challenges that you might face (and knowing you are not alone!) can really support someone working towards bringing a family together.
Patience is Key. Blended Families go through assimilation phases. It may take two to four years before a family fully adjust living together. In addition, the ages of children involved can lead to different challenges. Teenagers are often more hesitant to assimilate into a stepfamily scenario where as children under ten are more likely to assimilate quicker (APA, 2019). Being aware that everyone will go through assimilation phases at a different rate is important and patience is key.
Couple Time is Crucial Reconnecting as a couple is crucial to the new marriage. Often, in young marriages without children, that is the time that the soil of a marriage is fertilized and developed. With second marriages, the time for these connections are often limited. Children are now involved and your schedule becomes overwhelmed with children’s activities and needs. Be sure to schedule time for connection and one another. This is crucial for the marriage. Feeling guilty for being away on your “scheduled time” is often what creates restriction and results in this time not occurring. Be aware of this. Fertilize the soil of your relationship and create a stronger foundation that is critical for your now blooming family.
Connections with Parent and Children Just as creating relationship time is crucial so is the parent with the children. Often with blended families, children are worried about being abandoned by their parent. So creating time for bonding between the parent and his/her children is important to continue. Many times, children are used to living alone with the parent with a great deal of quality time. Now, another adult is in the house, which undoubtedly creates less time for the child/parent bond. Scheduling some connection times can seem overwhelming but often just a walk around the neighborhood, a friendly game of toss, etc. can create these important moments.
Connections between Bonus Parent and Children This connection often is filled with the most stress and anxiety. This relationship can come with a lot pressure and often unrealistic expectations. For a successful connection, it is important to come at this relationship with positivity, love and patience with limited expectations. The bonus parent has to be patient, as often the child needs to know that this relationship is stable and reliable. The bonus parent can be looked upon as a camp counselor or uncle/aunt of types to begin with and it’s important to not show a competition or replacement of the biological parent. Pushing experiences and connections too quickly can have an adverse effect on the relationship. Show up, hold space, and be consistent. The relationship you want will slowly develop overtime.
Create new rituals as a family Creating new rituals as a family will also fertilize that soil for a healthy family dynamic. Come together, discuss how the family will treat one another, and make a “contract” of how the family will interact. This is important for developing trust within the family. Furthermore, create new family routines and rituals that will create a family bond. These can also be simple as in watching one show together a week that creates a communality. Also, developing new rituals around holidays while also respecting and incorporating ones that were previously existent.
Overall, about 50% of families are now blended within the United States. Having respect and empathy for the process of how blended families come together without judgment will lead to more positive familiar experiences and decrease stress and anxiety for all involved. For more information visit, The Red Bow Project Written By: Amber Bradshaw Wooten, who is a practicing blended family life coach and has a PhD in Educational Psychology.