Blended families are more and more common, since about half of marriages end in divorce and around 15% of kids are a part of a blended family, according to the US Census Bureau. A blended family is the phrase that has been assigned to family systems that consist of a couple and one or more children that live together for at least a portion of the time. The process of adapting as a blended family may come with some hurdles to overcome, especially if the children involved are young or the divorce that occurred was a difficult and drawn-out one. Today, we are going to talk about some of these struggles that families may face, as well as some concepts to implement and keep in mind when working to overcome any difficulties.
It’s not tricky to understand that some blended families may have issues with, well, blending as a unit. If there are multiple kids involved from each side, and even more so if they are younger and cannot fully grasp the situation, there could possibly be struggles that are encountered during the process that keep it from going as smoothly as you hoped. A few of the most common struggles may include:
Often times, there are issues that arise in blended families that stem from not bonding properly – whether it’s from inadequate attention that has been placed in this area or there if there has been strong resistance from one or more individuals. Bonding is an important step in becoming closer as a family, but you might discover roadblocks here initially.
Coming together as a new family unit could potentially come with troubles within the field of disciplining. As a parent, you know there needs to be rules and structure set in place, but you also likely want to avoid butting heads with your new step kids. On the other hand, the kids might choose to act out and test you when it comes to discipline, so it can certainly become an area of trouble and inner conflict quickly.
Depending on each unique circumstance with a blended family, there could potentially be feelings of resentment amongst siblings with each other or directed at the parents. There are likely a lot of major changes taking place, and it might be difficult for the children or teens to express their emotions about what’s going on – so they gravitate towards resentment of their “new” family.
It’s likely that if the kids facing the integration of their new family are unhappy and resistant of the changes taking place that they will start to compare this unit to their “old” family. It’s tough for some to go through such a massive adjustment and making comparisons – though it ultimately will not help with easing negative feelings – can make a child feel better and more justified in how they are feeling, as well.
Each blended family is unique, and you might find that you are met with just one or two of these struggles, or maybe even none. As parents, you should be going into this transitional time prepared that you might need to shift your focus into overcoming these issues so that everyone can get along and live in harmony.
As a new family unit, there should be teamwork involved if working to overcome any struggles is a main priority. What works for you and your family might be totally different from what works for someone else, though there are some general aspects to keep in mind when navigating struggles as a blended family:
Patience is truly a virtue in these circumstances, because even though there might be anger, resistance, and resentment involved initially, there is a good chance that these feelings will settle and not endure forever. This is especially true if there is constant effort and space allowed for thoughts and feelings to be expressed about the situation. Having patience is crucial since this can be a major change to become accustomed to.
A big reason there might be resistance and comparisons in blended family situations has to do with negative feelings surrounding past family traditions, such as during the holidays or for birthdays. It can be hard for kids to accept that any traditions that were in place before will look different, but this is the perfect opportunity to create new and special traditions that only you have together. Doing so can help ease any challenges within this realm.
One thing that young ones do well with is stability and routine, which will likely get shaken up during the process of blending as a new family. Ensuring that some form of stability is kept can help everyone feel more supported and secure during this time, and it can be something as simple as eating dinner together each night or winding down with a movie in the evening.
No matter the family situation, it is so vital to keep an open line of communication to certify that everyone is being heard and understood. Since there are likely a lot of different emotions taking place and changes that the kids feel like they didn’t have a say in, just being there to hear them out and to explain anything to them can make a world of a difference in how everyone feels.
Blending a family together can certainly be tricky and overwhelming for everyone, especially at first. Being prepared for the changes and knowing that there might be things like resistance and other conflicts that occur is key and going into it with an open mind and a hefty amount of patience will set everyone up to soon feel comfortable and right at home.
If you or someone you love in need of some mental health guidance, please reach out to Dr. Messina & Associates. We have a team of psychiatrists, therapists and psychologists that specialize in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication management for patients of all ages. Our group of compassionate and skilled professionals is available for in person appointments for patients in the DFW area. We also offer online appointments for patients in the Austin, DFW, Houston and San Antonio areas.