Blended Family: What To Expect And How To Make It Work?

Written by Sudipta Jana • 
Image: IStock

In a remarriage, you tread carefully. You make every effort to understand your partner and not hurt them.

These efforts need to be doubled or even tripled if you and your partner have children and they come to live with you. To say the least, it isn’t easy to make a blended family work because the kids may not be as enthusiastic as their parents to live with ‘strangers’.

MomJunction tells you about the problems involved in a blended family, how to make such family work, and more.

What Is A Blended Family?

If the partners have children from the previous relationships, and those children come to live with their parent’s new partner, then such setup becomes a blended family or a stepfamily.

For children, a blended family involves living with stepparent and siblings, which may not be something they want to do.

Back to top

What To Expect In A Blended Family?

If you are planning a blended family, then here’s what you should be prepared for:

1. Children may be anxious about the transition.

Almost everything about their life changes – they need to live in a new house, with new family members, go to a new school, and stay away from one parent.

2. Your child may be angry.

Your child may blame you for breaking the original family, and feel jealous of the step-parent and step-siblings because he or she has to share you with them.

3. Conflict in the relationship between the child and the stepparent.

Children may be resentful towards your new partner. They may have been used to treating your partner as a friend/ acquaintance, but when the friend takes on the role of a parent then the kids see your new partner as someone trying to replace their original parent.

4. Confusion over the nonresident parent.

Sometimes court orders both parents to spend time with their children. The ex who does not live in the blended family but visits the children is known as the non-resident parent. These visitations do not allow the child to settle in the new family. The new partner may also feel threatened.

All these conflicts could lead to some problems in a blended family.

Back to top

[ Read: Common Family Rules Parents Should Not Ignore ]

What Are The Problems In A Blended Family?

Below we list out the various problems in a blended family, and how you can resolve them.

1. Sibling rivalry:

Children find it difficult to live, work and compete with siblings, especially if they are new and do not share their parents.

How to resolve it: Do not compare one kid to another as it increases the tension between them. Talk to your children, while your spouse may talk to theirs about the need to come out of such rivalries. You may ignore the minor things that any siblings would naturally have, but make some rules to ensure the rivalry isn’t crossing limits.

2. Attention issues:

A child may feel that he or she is not getting the attention that they used to get before.

How to solve it: Both the parents should involve themselves in the children’s development, academics, sports and extracurricular activities so that none of them feels less or more favored.

3. Step parenting:

Children are more tolerant and obedient toward their biological parents than step parents. A stepparent is seen as a figure of authority, who is also a stranger. This creates a clash and kids do not readily accept guidance from their step parents.

How to resolve it: In this situation, both parents should have a talk. If your individual parenting rules are different, discuss them and come to a consensus.

4. Doesn’t feel like one united family:

As you begin this new relationship along with yours and your partner’s children, it still feels like you are living in two separate families, with different outlook, priorities, and practices.

How to resolve it: While this is a problem initially, it will eventually wear out as the two families learn about each other, appreciate and agree to accept each other. Meanwhile, you and your partner can make efforts to increase proximity between your respective families by going out during the weekends, dining together, etc.

5. Differences in age:

The children could be of different age groups. A wide age gap will make blending difficult. Also, the stepparent may also have a radical age difference with the children.

How to resolve it: The only solution is to enjoy each other’s company, provide equal attention and benefits, and share everything together.

[ Read: Dysfunctional Family ]

6. Changes in family dynamics:

The positions that children had in the previous family may not remain so in the blended family. If a child was the eldest in the old family, he or she may not be so in the new setup. Blending two families may result in a child losing his/her unique place in the family. Such subtle changes affect kids.

How to solve this: Treat children uniformly without giving undue importance or attention to any one child. This helps in assuring all the children that no one is loved more or less than the others.

Although starting and living in a blended family is not an easy experience, having one whole family certainly has its advantages.

Back to top

What Are The Advantages Of A Blended Family?

Here are some advantages of a blended family vis-à-vis a single-parent family.

  1. Better economic position: When two parents work together for a family, the children will be provided with a better standard of living and a secure future.
  1. Happier parents make happier children: Prior to forming the blended family, the situation in the house must have been tense or hostile. This may have had an effect on the children. A new parent and siblings will make the family complete again.
  1. Multiple role models: Blended families give children the opportunity to look up to two people. The presence of both parents, and more relatives and family friends help in the all-round development of children. The relationships in a blended family teach children how to respect companionship.
  1. More support: A blended family not only means having more than one parent to rely on but also more grandparents, uncles, and aunts, more siblings and friends with whom children can spend time, play, talk to and get support from whenever they need to. This brings a sense of reassurance and comfort to children.
  1. Adjustment and acceptance: A blended family involves two different families, with their individual ideas, rules, and practices, living together under one roof. Both the parents and children learn to live together by sharing things, adjusting and compromising.

When you have such beautiful benefits of staying in a blended family, you should leave no stone unturned to make it work.

Back to top

[ Read: Family Quotes And Sayings ]

How To Make A Blended Family Work?

Here are some tips to have a successful blended family:

  1. Plan before the marriage: Before you and your partner decide to get married, you need to have a clear consensus on children and blended family. When you have agreed on a plan with mutual consent, the transition will be much smoother.
  1. Don’t over-expect: You may be investing a lot of time, energy, care and affection on your partner’s children, but they may not reciprocate to you in the beginning. Do not let it get to you. Things will get better with time.
  1. It’s ok to have fall outs: It is natural for siblings to fight. Do not always attribute fights to a stepfamily. As they live and grow together, they will have many moments to bond as well.
  1. Be fair to all: Do not be partial either to yours or your partner’s children. Attend to everyone and don’t make them feel that you are biased.
  1. Take and give time: You need to be realistic. Give the children and yourself some time to form a relationship of trust and affection, as they don’t grow overnight.
  1. Make time for everyone: Don’t get so overwhelmed with managing children that you ignore your partner. They might feel deprived of your love and attention. Make sure this doesn’t happen.
  1. Invest time: Spending time helps the children know each other and also the new parent. Take time to go out with your new family, and make sure your weekends are spent with them. This will give you the opportunity to bond with them.
  1. Respect individuality: When you are raising a stepfamily, not everyone is the same. Make a rule that everyone in the family must respect each other, and not comment on other’s habits or preferences. This way you will ensure harmony at home.
  1. Seek professional help: If you know any local organization or consultancy that deals with stepfamilies, talk to them and learn about the ways to blend families.

Children play the most important role in the success or otherwise of a stepfamily. But it is your responsibility to make them accept the new setup. And you need to follow a separate strategy for each age group.

Back to top

[ Read: Signs Of A Bad Parent ]

How To Help Kids Adjust In A Blended Family?

Kids of different ages have different issues and needs in a stepfamily. Here, we tell you how you can address the issues of different age groups.

A child less than 10 years old:

  • Children less than ten years old tend to accept a new adult better than older kids because they are glad that they have one additional person to take care of them.
  • Attend to a young child without any delay. The more a parent is attentive about a child’s needs, the more likely he or she is accepted by the child.
  • Young kids may also strive hard or compete for the attention of their parents. A child who doesn’t know everyone in a new house may feel lonely and out of place, and try hard to get a parent’s attention. Do not get annoyed with the child’s behavior or reprimand them for this. Instead, make them feel that you are always there to listen to and take care of them.

Blended families with children between 10 and 15 years:

  • Children in this age group may find it difficult to come to terms with a new arrangement. They may also be resentful about a new home and new parents. They need time to accept that their original parents have separated.
  • They need time to accept a new parent who will also discipline them. Listen to them respectfully and communicate with them frequently. It’s good to talk out the bottled up emotions.
  • The children in this age are sensitive about their needs like love, support, and attention but may not be open to sharing their feelings. You can talk to them and let them know that you are not going to be a replacement parent but just another person to support and love them. The more open and non-judgmental you are with them, the greater are the chances of your acceptance.

Teenagers older than 15 years:

  • Teens at this age may seem detached from the stepfamily as they are preoccupied with their own identities.
  • Coping with their bodily changes, emotional feelings and fears can overwhelm them often, and a change in the family status is not what they would appreciate. Give them the space they need to face the situation, but let them know that you are there for them.

They may not be vocal about their feelings but are still sensitive about matters like feeling important, being loved and heard. Therefore, do not ignore them. All that young adults want is a little assurance and stability at home.

Back to top

[ Read: Ways To Enhance Parenting Skills ]

Families don’t build in a day. Things may seem too difficult at first, but with time and effort, they become better. Have open communication, respect one another, avoid being judgmental, and a day will come when your hard work pays.

Do you want to tell us your opinion on blended families? Share it with us in the comment section below.

Recommended Articles:

Was this article helpful?

    Latest Articles