“It is a collision of two universes, with the hopes that these two will form one new one.”
Relationships are a beautiful thing. Perhaps you’ve found that one person you want to spend the rest of your life with, someone with whom you might begin to develop routines and traditions. Perhaps you enjoy spending time staring lovingly into your partners eyes, only to be interrupted by cacophonous obscenities shouted from the non-stop video game session in the living room; the gaze broken as your partner gets up to collect swear jar money from his 15-year-old son. Instead of feeding into the stereotype of wicked step-parents from folklore and fairy tales, please believe you are not alone in your strife and that blended family transitions are also very difficult for children and adolescents.
Blended families are on the rise in the United States, and more and more research is shedding light on the numerous challenges faced by these types of families. Researchers urge the importance of building healthy relationships with non-biological family members as early as possible and creating shared guidelines regarding the structure of the blended family. When striving to follow these types of guidelines, it is beneficial to remember the development of a blended family will not, nor should it, realistically look the same as the nuclear family (Kumar, 2017). This is a common mistake made within blended families that simply creates consternation rather than peace.
It can be especially difficult for children entering into blended families due to the challenges of bringing two families together. In these situations, children may face problems with sibling rivalry, issues with accepting a step-parent as an authority figure, or discomfort with a new step-parent which may prevent unity within the blended family. It is important to remember that children entering into a blended family are often struggling with the idea that their parents are no longer together, possibly resulting in deep feelings of loss (Kumar, 2017).
Along with being proactive in building relationships, other beneficial strategies for step-parents include: communicating with your spouse to determine concrete roles within the blended family, especially regarding discipline; understanding the difficult transition each member of the blended family is undertaking and being supportive; maintaining an air of respect for your step-child’s biological parent. Finally, seeking counseling as early as possible during the blended family transition is also highly recommended by researchers as noted by Gonzales (2019),
Becoming a blended family is like setting off on a long trek into the wilderness. Being prepared is one of the most critical components of such an undertaking. Although knowing a little about what to expect and being armed with as many of the anticipated necessities as possible does not guarantee a successful journey, one can only imagine what a lack of these things will likely lead to. (p. 150)
Although there are many negative stereotypes regarding blended families, important research is on the rise to dispel these stereotypes and to offer opportunities for individuals within a blended family to learn and grow on their trek towards unity.
Gonzales, J. (2009). Prefamily counseling: Working with blended families. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 50, 148–157.
Kumar, K. (2017). The blended family life cycle. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 58(2), 110–125. https://doi.org/10.1080/10502556.2016.1268019