The family landscape, as it stands today, is looking a little more blended.
With close to 50% of married couples getting a divorce, there are lots more people remarrying and bringing their kids into new unions. That is what today’s blended or mixed family looks like.
40% of couples who remarry were married before, according to the Pew Research Center. This can be problematic because there are dynamics that must work out with mixed families, and not all families gel the instant they meet. Children have their own emotional baggage because of divorce and might resent their parent’s new partner.
Common Problems Faced by Blended Families
To understand what a blended family is and the challenges they face, we are going to examine some general problems, which are common among mixed families.
Not all mixed families can imitate the “Brady Bunch” life successfully.
Having step-grandparents, stepfathers, stepsisters, stepbrothers, or stepmothers can be just too much for some children. They feel as if their world is out of control and they have no way of influencing the changes. Oftentimes, it takes several years for them to adjust.
Usually, siblings contend with one another for attention in a nuclear family. Therefore, you can imagine how exponentially this grows when they are placed in a blended family.
Sibling rivalry can be a bit more abrasive when the kids have not yet fully accepted the new union. Even though they are joined together because of a marriage, it doesn’t change the fact that they are still strangers. There might be changes in birth orders and treatment as well.
A child who is used to being the youngest and center of attention might no longer be that, and this will breed resentment towards the other child.
Prepare for temper tantrums, silent treatment, sulking, depression, lower grades, meanness, selfishness, isolation, and a host of other resultant behaviors. To minimize these kinds of situations, have a frank discussion with your partner about how you will both approach this problem.
Try not to take sides about which child is the instigator of the problem. Neither should you use labels, which might praise or elevate one child over another.
You both must have each other’s backs and have the same strategy when dealing with your children. Because once you are married, you equally share the responsibilities, care, and attention for all kids.
Any agreed-upon disciplinary or parenting style utilized must be used by both parents. Having an authoritative parent and a permissive parent will only complicate the matter further.
Give Attention Equally
The more people that come into a family, the more difficult it is to split your time evenly so that no one feels ignored.
Children will act up if they feel like another child is being given preferential treatment.
This will often feel like you are juggling five balls in the air, but it is important to spend quality time and show equal interest in all of your children.
That includes the new ones.
Furthermore, blended families occasionally struggle financially because resources must be stretched further. Sometimes it is a factor. At other times, the joining of two adults makes the dollar stretch farther. But when you have tuition, clubs, uniforms, lunch, allowances, trips, and any number of extracurricular activities to pay for, your budget can get tight.
Especially if your ex is not contributing to your child’s upkeep or if you have to pay child support or alimony yourself, the burden can be unbearable. This problem can only be resolved if everyone is working to minimize expenses.
Create schedules for your children and yourself. Have your children select one activity for the month or quarter. Older kids have the option of whether they want to get a part-time job to finance their social life.
It is important that both parents attend as many activities as they can, equally for all children, so that there are no accusations later on.
Two Becomes One
As spouses, you want everything to go perfectly and everyone to get along. You have a new partner and as a divorcee, it is to your advantage to have additional help. You look forward to those days of having fun as a blended family, but your children still are not comfortable with each other. Neither are they with your partner. Somehow, you are still two units rather than one big happy family.
It will take some inventive family time practices to forge the bond among all of you. Have family dinners where everyone is present. Spend Sunday evenings having picnics in the park. Go out for ice cream together or play a sport together. Or you can have a family discussion and some catching up at the end of the week.
Keep pressing, keep working, and do not expect a miracle overnight.