Blended families haven't been studied as much as you would think. More recently we're seeing an increase in the data, which has been great for helping us learn more about how these families function.
Define a Blended Family
A blended family is a couple and their children from any previous relationships forming a new family. The children may or may not always live with the couple, but will visit or be a part of their lives in some way. Another word for a blended family is a step family.
How Many Blended Families Are There?
Smart Stepfamilies states that over 29 million parents (13 percent) are also stepparents to other children. There are roughly 63,000 new blended families formed in the United States each and every month according to The Bonded Family.
The Blended Family As The Majority?
Some suggest that the dominant family will be the blended family within the next 10 years in the U.S. Unfortunately, the main data behind this trend is the fact that well over 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce and of the second marriages that occur, 75 percent of those end in divorce too.
We also know that most people end up remarrying so there is a domino effect. Sheer mathematics means the blended family becomes more and more common every day. Some other numbers to consider is the fact that over one million children experience the divorce of their parents each year and 65% percent of those children will end up in a blended family due to the remarriage of one or both biological parents remarrying. The blended family is a growing phenomenon.
Problems Experienced by Blended Families
Blended families have problems according to the data. Children who live in a blended family are three times more likely to need psychological counseling or psychiatric care than other children. They are also 50 percent more likely to develop health problems than children living with both biological parents, according to blended family statistics from World Village.
I am in a bind. It is obvious to me that my future stepchildren do not like me and they really oppose my proposed marriage marriage to their mom? Should I go through with my plans to remarry even though my future stepchildren are against the marriage? I struggle between my happiness and causing problems in their family.
First of all, in a second marriage that involves children, you're blending a family. That is rarely easy. And the research proves it is REALLY HARD, with 60 to 73 percent of remarriages involving children in divorce. And if the kids are openly hostile and opposed to the marriage, it stands to reason that you can expect an even rougher ride than the average couple in your situation.
The key thing to know up front is that blended families present parenting challenges that must be navigated with extreme care. Stepparents are often confronted with long-standing alliances and power struggles and that can be a shock initially.
Know ahead of time that you’re going to have to work extremely hard and very consistently to overcome the barriers and develop positive bonds with your new stepchildren. This will take some time and it won’t be easy, but it’s part of the challenge of building a successful blended family. It will mean taking a sincere interest in the kids and spending lots of one-on-one time with each of them. In particular, you’ll want to take special care to praise them at every opportunity instead of simply punishing them when they misbehave. In other words, make an intentional effort to “catch them being good.”
Because of the unique challenges involved, we recommend that those who are planning to remarry and “reconstitute” a family should seek professional counseling well before the wedding. Couples who attempt to “go it alone” may be setting themselves up for frustration and failure. Expectations, roles, and parenting styles should be clarified and openly discussed with the help of an experienced marriage-and-family therapist.
Divorce and separation are things that many people dread. It is a painful process that most couples go through. There are a few cases where the decision is reached amicably and both parties are okay with the situation.
Most people are tempted to rush into another union. You should, however, take time to make a solid foundation. Before making a decision the children have to be considered. They should also be given time to adjust. Making them go through multiple drastic changes is not good.
Most blended families that have succeeded have one thing in common. The parents took their time, on average two years or even more after a divorce before remarrying. One drastic family change should not be piled over the other. The period of adjustment significantly increases the chances of success.
There are a few things that you should know early so that you do not end up getting frustrated. Do not expect to be in good terms with the children of your partner overnight. Love and affection develop gradually. You should let it happen at its own pace as you get to know them.
One way you can do this is by spending time with them especially in real life situations. Simply put the activities you engage in should reflect everyday life. You should also make an effort to make your children used to your partner. You should encourage your children to get to know each other.
You should discuss about parenting early. Get a common ground on how you can parent as a team. Be open to ideas and if necessary make parenting changes. The adjustments to parenting styles should be done before you remarry. This will make the transition smoother. Your children will not blame their stepparent for the changes.
Do not allow ultimatums. No one should put you in a situation where you have to make a decision between your new partner and your children. You should make it clear that you want both of them in your life. Insist they respect one another.
As mentioned earlier, do not expect too much. Do not expect the children to put in the same amount of effort to make the relationship work. This, however, should not stop you from putting time, love, energy and affection in fostering a good relationship. This investments and gestures may eventually pay off in the long run. Children should be given time to make a successful transition.
Irrespective of how many top tips for stepfamilies you get yourself accustomed with and how strictly you adhere to a blended family guide, there are numerous challenges that would shape up as barriers in your way to become a family that gels well.
Couples may get divorced because their relationship hits a dead end or if they develop certain irreconcilable differences. A parent might remarry in case of an unfortunate demise of the co-parent. In case of a remarriage, it is the kids that are subjected to the most dramatic changes. They might find it extremely difficult to bond with their stepdad or stepmom. Naturally, there are numerous barriers that have to be overcome to build a happy family.
Till then, it is a work in progress.
Blended family tips can help you to get started with developing cordial bonds with the stepchildren. But this act is not the sole responsibility of either the parent or the stepparent. Both have to take proactive steps to make the kids feel comfortable and positive about the developments. Neither the parent nor the stepparent should be indulging in demeaning the biological parent of the kids, undermining the role of the stepparent or fueling the sadness of the kids post divorce or remarriage.
Undermining the importance of the biological parent or the stepparent, rewarding sadness of the kids by becoming overprotective and seeing no faults on their part and trying to behave in an unnatural way to create a world of make-believe would all backfire while overcoming the barriers is a work in progress.
Both, the parent and the stepparent, must take positive and constructive steps to make the children feel positive. Kids should be cared for, given their space and the family should indulge in activities as a family. The kids were not party to the decision of remarrying or in the choice of the new partner their parent had opted for but they can always be party to decisions taken thereafter. Weekly or weekend routines, what the family should do on holidays or when there are festivities and special occasions can always have the kids as the decisive players. There has to be an effort to build a collective future and everyone has to be a stakeholder.
Neither can the stepparent be ignored nor the biological parent who has been divorced or is not alive anymore. The kids should feel accepted and so should the stepparent. The biological parent who has remarried should also strike a balance between living a new life with his or her new partner while not forgetting that the kids are an equal priority.
What do you think? Are we missing any key barriers to building a successful stepfamily?
Becoming a stepparent is a big responsibility and for many a huge source of anxiety. For many entering into the role of stepparent they feel as though they will need to be the authority figure, but at the same time they would like to be the cool adult that the children will like. After all you are not their biological parent, but you will be part of a team that will have to make decisions on how to discipline and have fun. It is for this reason that many psychologists and child behavior specialist have studied what needs to happen for both stepparent and children to get along well in the new family structure.
Give it Time
The first tip to becoming a stepparent is to have patience. Many stepparents have a grand dream that they will marry the love of their life and the children will simply love and respect them. Although this is a great dream it is not the reality for most people and blended families. All children will react differently to a new parent in their lives. Many feel loyal to their biological parent, which makes them feel guilty if they begin to have fun with you. Others might feel defiant because you are not their biological parent and you will never fill the void of their missing parent. Others might even feel like you are the reason their family will not be together again. Remember that the child has anxiety too and it will take time to feel like a family unit.
Know When to Seek Help
Another helpful tip to becoming a stepparent is to know when to seek help. If you have patience many blended families will start to feel comfortable around one another after some time. You, the stepparent, will begin to feel more comfortable being their authority figure and knowing your role as a stepparent. The children will also become more attached to your presence in the house and they too will become more responsive and comfortable with you being part of the decision making. However, if the children or even just a child does not respond to you or warm up to you after a long period of time it might be helpful to seek professional help. There are many great family therapists that could help you and your stepchildren get over their issues and anxiety.
Creating a strong blended family takes time and a lot of patience. It also helps to research and learn a few great tips for strengthening the blended family. Knowing the best practices will help create a blended family unit that encourages honesty, trust, and love.
There are many ways to try and put together a blended family and there are many ways to strengthen a blended family, but the most important tip is to try and encourage the whole family to continue being a unit. This may be difficult for many families that do not have the other biological parent around or for families that can simply not get along, but it is important to try and remain a unit even if the relationship did not work out. The children should continue to see their biological parents as a united front, which mean both parents will have to agree on major decisions and punishments.
If the family unit is still able to amicably raise the children the stepparent should be used as the counselor or person that the children can complain and vent to. This will open the door for trust. Many children feel like their stepparent is trying to take over for their biological parent and will begin to resent or dislike the stepparent. This type of a situation is not conducive to strengthening the blended family, which is why it is very important to ensure the stepparent is still part of the decisions, but remains neutral for the children.
Another great tip for strengthening the blended family is to ensure there is honesty between children and adults. As cheesy as your children might find family meetings it is important to check in with the family as a whole to ensure everyone is on the same page and all members of the family are fully informed in big moves or decisions. This means that you should sit your family down and explain that the stepparent is simply an added person that will love and support them.
You will also want to ensure that the children understand that the stepparent is not here to take the spot of their biological parent. It might seem obvious that this is what is to happen, but many children simply need to hear these words come from their parent’s mouth. It would even be better if you and their other biological parent were able to discuss this with the children together.
After enduring a heartbreaking divorce and finally finding a real loving relationship, the first urge can often entail rushing into remarriage and melding a blended family. However, it is important to first lay the foundation and give everyone involved in this new relationship time to adjust. If you take the process slow, you will ensure that your blended family is completely bonded and on board with the idea of marriage.
Marriage is a huge step that should not be taken lightly, especially if the happiness of an entire blended family is at stake. Second marriages with children can be filled with potential roadblocks, but if you follow these helpful adjustment tips, you can be well on your way to a family wedding ceremony.
Lessen the Adjustments for Children
Children are often emotionally fragile and can only handle so much change at one time. Blended families will most likely succeed if at least two years are spent adjusting to the idea of a blended family. Therefore, it is recommended that a couple waits at least two years to become remarried. This two year period is critical and gives young children enough time to get used to all the adjustments that come with a new blended family.
Don’t Pressure Your Children and Partner to Forge a Bond
Let your new partner build a relationship at a rate that both your child and partner are comfortable with. First they have to get to know each other and over time love and affection will follow.
Discuss Parenting Approaches Before Remarriage
Children can always be a source of friction if you and your partner are not on the same page with your parenting tactics. Discuss how you will parent your children before you remarry and make adjustments to your parenting style before you walk down the aisle for a second time. Don’t allow your children to associate parenting changes with your partner, make sure that you are seen as the one that is initiating change.
Situations will inevitably arise where you are put in the middle between your partner and your child, don’t get pressured into picking sides. Make sure that both know how important they are in your life and try to help them find common ground.
Respect is the most important component of any healthy blended family. All members must respect each other and make conscious decisions to put the needs of the children first. Everyone may not necessarily like each other, but everyone must respect one another. This will lead to a blended family that is poised for success.
Early in the formation of a blended family, you as a step-parent may want to focus on developing positive relationships with your stepchildren. You will increase the chances of success by thinking about what the children need. Starting before the wedding is a great idea, the earlier the better. Age, gender, and personality are not irrelevant, but all children have some basic needs and wants that should be met as a precursor to a great relationship.
Children want to feel:
Let the child set the paceEvery child is different and will show you how slow or fast to go as you get to know them. Some kids may be more open and willing to engage. Shy, introverted children may require you to slow down and give them more time to warm up to you. Given enough time, patience, and interest, most children will eventually give you a chance.
With about one-third of all weddings in the United States today leading to the forming of step families, it is important to understand the basics of the different types of blended families and their challenges.
Husband with children marries never-married, no-kids wife.
Dads who remarry often expect their new brides to assume a similar role to their former wife. The new wife, on the contrary, steps into the marriage ready for romance and quality time together as a couple. Instantly filling the role of wife is challenge enough; being interim Mom is often overwhelming. Wives in this situation often feel frustration and disillusionment when they are handed someone else's kids to care for (and the kids don't like it, either!).
Wife with children marries no-kids husband.
Entering this marriage, Mom's relief at having a new partner in life might result in her handing off too many responsibilities to her new husband. The kids, then, usually will rebel. They have a dad (or had one); they don't think they need a new one. Tread lightly with any stepparent administering discipline. Biological parents are the ones who should handle rules and punishments, at least initially.
This couple needs to bond and show solidarity to the children. The wife must be careful not to shut out her new husband in favor of her children. Avoid inside jokes with the kids and subtle put-downs that would cause the kids to disregard their new stepfather altogether. There is a fine line between handling the discipline and devaluing the husband's position in the home. Require children to show the same respect for their stepdad that they would any teacher, law enforcement officer, or other adult in authority. Don't try to force love.
Divorced mom with kids marries divorced dad with kids.
This type of stepfamily may seem to come with the most hurdles to overcome initially, but has potential to be the most successful makeup because Mom and Dad are motivated to pull together for the kids. Kids, however, experience the most loss when their parent marries someone with children. Access to their biological parent must now be shared by not just the new spouse but also by other children. Their physical space is shared with a stepparent and step-siblings. New cities, new home, new school and new roommate are also common changes when families join. And, some children must face the end of their dream of their parents reuniting.
Widow or widower with kids remarries.
When a family experiences the loss of a beloved spouse and parent, the new spouse/stepparent will inevitably confront the “ghosts of family past.” On some level, grieving continues for years after the death of a spouse.
This stepfamily needs to make sure it is taking steps to heal from their grief in order for the new family to unite. Rather than trying to assume a parental role, the successful stepparent in this situation will step into the role of friend and mentor. Family members can honor their loved one with photographs and memories, but erecting a shrine and idolizing their past prevents intimacy with the new spouse and stepparent. Establishing common ground and moving forward together is difficult but possible.
Divorced or widowed parents of adult children marry.
Even if the children have left the nest, remarried couples with children still qualify as stepfamilies. Due to a lack of daily interactions, bonding and connecting may be more difficult. Many relationships will be strained for years or may never achieve any level of intimacy. Stepparents and stepchildren can make an effort to connect through cards, letters, phone calls, emails and family get-togethers.
No matter what type of stepfamily yours may fall under, with the right resources and the help of God, family, and friends, your stepfamily can find encouragement and hope.
Article ListThe Family Medallion® Wedding
Melding Together a Blended Family
Bonding with your new blended family