Resources for Blended Families

FT Contributor  | 

Blended Family Definition

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of blended family is, “A family that includes children of a previous marriage of one spouse or both.” Also commonly referred to as a “mixed family” or a “step-family,” a blended family could comprise two people who used to be single parents and their respective sets of children, all living together in one household. While this concept might mentally transport you into a warm and fuzzy episode of “The Brady Bunch,” sometimes blending a family isn’t that simple or smooth. It can be a challenge to blend together two different families with children because there may be cultural differences or parenting style contradictions. These conflicts can lead to disruption in the home, which can be negative for both children and parents alike.

If you’re about to blend two families or you already live in a blended household, focusing on your marriage and the health and wellbeing of your children are probably your top priorities. By learning more about the challenges you may face as a mixed family, the ways you can cope, and helpful resources to assist with blending your families, you can ensure your step-family seamlessly comes together in harmony.

Common Problems With Blended Families

When you attempt to blend a family, there are many factors that can cause it to be tough on the children, step-parents, and biological parents. If you’re planning to mix families or you’re in the beginning stages of blending your family, here are some of the challenges you may face.

Cultural Divides

Religious or political beliefs are important to everyone and when these beliefs differ between family members, it can make for a toxic household. Conflict is bound to occur if your blended family joins together in the same household and cultural divides are already present.

For example, your child may have been raised Catholic while your spouse’s child was raised in another Christian denomination. These conflicting viewpoints of the world can come to a head easily in the household, creating feuds and rifts between family members that aren’t easily dissolved. As a parent or stepparent, it can be hard to watch children disagree on important worldly, political, or religious issues.

Clashing Parenting Styles

On top of attempting to blend your family and have your children live together peacefully, you’re also in a new marriage, which can come with its own challenges. If you and your new spouse moved in together after getting married, you may still be learning about each other, including your parenting styles. You may have ways you address certain issues with your children, while your new spouse may have a completely different view on parenting. For example, you may be against grounding your child while your spouse may feel it’s the only way to teach your child a life-lesson.

These clashing parenting styles can not only cause rifts in your marriage, but they can also be confusing for the children. Without a set of concrete family rules and consequences for breaking those rules, children can begin to feel stressed in the household and may even act out. Until a parenting style is agreed upon by both parents and balance is achieved, this clash can be a major source of conflict within the family.

Drama From the Exes

Even if your blended family achieves a harmonious household together, there are still outside forces that can wreak havoc on this peace. You may be dealing with one or two other biological parents of you and your new spouse’s children that must be involved in the family unit. The drama involved can be especially difficult if there’s leftover animosity from a contested divorce. Even if these biological parents don’t cause drama or disturbances in daily life, you or your spouse may not agree with some of the weekly or monthly arrangements made.

For example, if your step-child’s other biological parent has custody every weekend, but you’d like to make plans for the whole family, you may begin to build up resentment toward the parent. The children can feel the resentment you’re fostering, which can cause strain in the household.

How to Make Blended Families Work

While these blended family challenges can be extreme, there are strategies you can adapt to make sure your step-family lives in a happy and peaceful environment.

Take Efforts to Actually Blend the Family

If you’re proactive at bridging cultural gaps within the family, blending your mixed family can be easier. Before you move in as a step-family, ensure the environment you’re creating will be harmonious by:

  • Talking to your spouse about family traditions and what’s important to him or her and the children.
  • Planning out holiday breaks in advance so that all parents get adequate time with the children.
  • Buying gifts for the children with your spouse so that all kids receive equal presents on holidays.
  • Not setting certain expectations for family traditions and holidays, such as a family trip.

Allow your spouse to continue other traditions with his or her children, such as going to church every Sunday. This ensures your step-children don’t feel they must adhere to your culture or beliefs and makes adjusting to the new household easier.

Manage Different Parenting Styles

To create a harmonious blended family, you’ll also need to be willing to compromise on parenting styles. While your house rules may be different than your new spouse’s idea of house rules, you can generally find common ground to agree on. Sit down and discuss the most important rules, such as being respectful of parents, and make them clear to the children.

It’s also important to agree on the consequences of breaking these rules and to make consequences clear to the children, such as no electronics if you don’t eat your dinner. If you and your spouse are on the same page about these rules and the consequences for breaking them, your children will see you as a united front. This makes your children and step-children feel more secure and confident in the home, so they’re more likely to behave and show respect to all family members.

Know When to Seek Help

Even if you take as many precautionary measures as you can to blend your family seamlessly, there are bound to be some hiccups along the way. Blended family counseling and support groups are helpful resources that can help you and your family understand each other’s needs and how to improve your home environment.

Resources for Parents in Blended Families

If you’re experiencing some of the common problems with blended families or you’re moving in together as a mixed family soon, there are many resources to help make the transition smooth.

This association offers an extensive collection of resources that are applicable to blended families. The information provided can help you improve communication skills between family members or create a more loving home environment. Some of the resources provide instructions for getting legal assistance in family separation cases.

If you’re looking for advice on issues that are relevant to step-families and the process of blending a family, this blog can help. Some of the latest informative entries cover dealing with holiday logistics, top stepmother complaints, and bringing a new baby into the family. You can easily find a topic that is pertinent to you and your family and obtain applicable information and advice on how to make the situation better.

These helpful tips provided by family experts are useful for ensuring new siblings can understand and accept each other for who they are. By implementing these tips when blending your family, you make sure that all members acknowledge each other’s differences and accept them as part of the family equation. The experts explain that, with realistic expectations, love, and communication, your mixed family can become a cohesive unit in a peaceful environment.


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This post was updated November 21, 2019. It was originally published November 21, 2019.