Blending the blended family

According to the National Stepfamily Resource Center, 75% of divorced persons eventually remarry, and 65% of remarriages involve children from the prior marriage. When one or both individuals marrying have children, a “blended family” is created.

It has been said that “blended” families sometimes collide rather than blend, as illustrated by fairy tales such as “Cinderella,” however that need not be the case. With education, preparation and cooperation, a harmonious family unit can emerge and thrive.

Prior to the wedding, couples should discuss and agree on the role that the stepparent will provide. Some suggestions for assisting in the transition according to include the following.

“Set up a relationship with the children in which the stepparent is more like a friend or camp counselor than a disciplinarian.

Let the biological (custodial) parent remain primarily responsible for control and discipline of the children until the stepparent has developed a solid bond with them.

Until stepparents can take on more parenting responsibilities, they can monitor the children’s behavior and activities and keep their spouses informed (without appearing to be spies).

Working together, stepparents can come up with a list of family rules. Discuss the rules with the children and then post them in a prominent place. This way the stepparent is removed from the custodial parent-stepparent-stepchild triangle because he or she is simply following the house rules, rather than acting like a policeman.”

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, the blending process runs into a snag. “Although most parents are able to work out these problems within the family, they should consider seeking professional help for their children if the children exhibit strong feelings of isolation, being alone in dealing with their losses, torn between two parents or two households, or uncomfortable with any member of their original family or step-family. It might be time to seek outside help for the entire family if:

  • A child directs her anger upon a particular family member or openly resents a stepparent or parent
  • One of the parents suffers from great stress and is unable to help with a child’s increased need for attention
  • A stepparent or parent openly favors one of the children
  • Discipline of a child is left to the parent rather than involving both the stepparent and parent
  • Members of the family derive no pleasure from usually enjoyable activities such as learning, going to school, working, playing, or being with friends and family.

By devoting the necessary time to develop their own traditions and form caring relationships, step-families can create emotionally rich and lasting bonds for each member. In the process, the children acquire the self-esteem and strength to enjoy the challenges that lie ahead.”

Read the resource article here

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