Blended Families have a particularly difficult time. Typically the new couples have different parenting styles and expectations. This is true of newlyweds, as well. However, newlyweds have a period of years to work out a joint and consistent parenting style. Parents of blended families must deal with this same issue quickly. They don’t have the luxury of time.
Many blended families falsely believe that stepfamilies should work the same as nuclear families. This is untrue. For instance, the roles that each parent plays will inevitably be different with their new stepchildren. The role of mother and father take on new meaning as children continue their relationship with the biological parent while negotiating the new relationship with the stepparent. The negative stereotype of the “step” family persists today, despite all efforts to educate society more. Most stepparents are NOT cruel and mean as the myth would have you believe. Stepparents have genuine feelings and emotions like other parents, but because of persisting mythology, children may be unduly wary of their new parent. It’s also a falsehood to assume that all members will love each other. The truth is that, it takes a long time for these types of bonds to form. Healthy relationships take a lot of time and sustained effort; blended family relationships are no different.
Myths About Blended Families
Most people think that there are fewer problems for the blended family when the family formed as the result of a death of a parent. Most people falsely believe that a blended family forming after a “divorce”, encounters more struggles. In reality though, loss is equated to both death and divorce and children experience grief and sorrow whether a parent has died or the family has “died” (through divorced). Until these feelings of loss are dealt with productively, it will be hard for a child to forge new relationships. This can cause problems in the blended family.
Another common myth out there has people believing that part-time blended families have things easier than full-time blended families. This simply is not true and is another one of those bewildering myths that gets families into trouble. When children share two homes and travel between two houses and sets of parents, everyone becomes stressed.
Try not to bring too much baggage from your past marriage and family system as this will put extra unwanted pressure and stress on your new family. Look at this as an opportunity to develop ways of living harmoniously with new people. Try to keep in mind that children view divorce and remarriage as a loss and will naturally find it difficult to transition. It can really help for parents to discuss their own expectations with each other. This airing of thoughts and feelings will help clarify how to proceed with the family. Children’s ideas should also be considered, thus making them feel they are a valued part of the family. It will help them to know that what they have to say is important and respected. Remember to include them in discussions.
Mediation, counseling and therapy is also useful in educating blended family members that any difficulties they are experiencing are normal and expected; for example, that the love that step-parents have for each other will not automatically translate in the blended family to the same kind of love that existed between children and their biological parents.