What, exactly, is a blended family?
In 2006, 43 percent of marriages involved at least one spouse who was remarrying. 65% of those people being remarried bring children from previous relationships into their new families. If you consider the number of families “blending” to create stepfamilies it is a big number and continues to grow. Common terms for these new families is a "blended" family or "step family".
We are often asked by people who are about to become part of a blended family how to get off to a great start. Often there are concerns about how to mesh with another parent’s children and how to treat and handle tough situations. Often in these situations there is a lot of anxiousness and people are just scared. We have all seen the movies with the jealous stepmothers and angry stepsisters. It is enough to make us all cringe. Let's not forget about the father’s role? What steps did he take to ensure his child’s happiness in the new, blended family? He seems to be a very distant figure, unaware of the cruel family dynamics in these storybook blended families.
See our full description of the blended family.
Introducing a new partner anxiety
Introducing a new partner is a minefield, just ask any single parent who has already done so. It is enough to make public speaking seem easy and we all hate that. It is an important moment and even the most mundane questions can be nerve racking to think about.
For those who have already seen their child react with pain or anger when meeting your ex’s new partner, you may be especially wary about revealing that you’ve fallen in love with someone new. It can be a bittersweet pill for the child to swallow and you need to aware of this before you make any introduction. It can also be stressful on you to enjoy your new relationship to the fullest while being concerned about how your children will react. They worry about sharing you and how things will change. Being part of a stepfamily is valid concern for most, especially when they have already seen their original family fall apart.
Many parents are shocked to find that their children—who seemed quite happy during outings with another adult and his or her children—suddenly become upset and withdrawn when a wedding is announced and the prospect living with the stepfamily becomes a reality. For instance, how the original family breakup was handled and the way the new couple’s union is celebrated can definitely set the tone.
Arranging blended family weddings
In addition to the right attitude, another key factor in ensuring a blended family gels early is to involve everybody in the wedding planning process often and early. Go out of your way to ask everyone involved before wedding arrangements are made and don't just pay it lip service. Make sure any children feel involved and that they have a say, it goes a long way in sending them the right message that this is their family and that they count.
Most divorced parents are acutely aware that their children have already been through the trauma of a divorce and have had the difficult job of adjusting to life with only one parent. Throw in a brand new person who is taking attention away from them and things get really complicated, especially for younger children. Don't forget that in most cases the child now has two families and is dealing with visitation issues with the other parent too. Now they’re being asked to make another change: living in a stepfamily. Not an easy task.
It’s not unusual for a couple with children from previous relationships to want to have a child of their own, hoping a new baby will bind the family together. But parents in blended families offer words of caution on this issue: “Wait until you’re truly bonded as a new family” and “Be careful. A new baby can upset the fragile applecart.” The consensus is that you need to allow a sufficient period that encourages the different personalities to find a way to “gel.” Even if the courtship days were blissful, living with others is the only way to know them. Be prepared for the new family to have plenty of “teething trouble,” and arguments over tidying up, money, noise, discipline and the everyday ups and downs of family life. Keep calm, work out compromises and avoid the pitfall of referring to the kids as “your” children versus “my” children. Rules and compromises need to be worked out.
Always remember, however, that you and your partner have decided to make a fresh start and a new, blended family. With love, plenty of patience and understanding, you’ll know you’ve been blessed with a second chance. Take it.
Article ListThe Family Medallion® Wedding
Melding Together a Blended Family
Bonding with your new blended family