What Is A Blended Family?
A blended family is where a child from a
previous relationship is included in the
family created by a new marriage.
Yes, it only takes one child from one
parent to be a blended family. Of
course, as you add more children from
different previous relationships, the
complexity increases dramatically, for
1. A traditional family of 4, with 2 parents and 2 children has 6 relationships...pretty complex, huh?
2. A small blended family of 4, where each kid has a parent from a previous marriage and the number of relationships grows to 15, yet, you're still a family of 4.
3. To make it more like a normal blended family, let's say each of the divorced parents remarried to someone who had one child from a previous marriage. Now you each have to navigate 44 relationships. Your 2 children have to obey 6 different adults with differing ideas of right and wrong. They each have to be siblings to children from 3 other families with no one in final authority to settle disputes. And still, your family is only 2 adults and 2 kids.
Now you know why you're having so many problems. Raising a family is hard...raising a blended family of the same size is about 7 times as hard, on average. So, what can you do to make it easier? These best-selling books on Handling Blended Family Problems can help you understand the complexities in blending a family. I've listed a number of problems unique to blended families, along with tips to reduce their impact. Notice, I didn't say you could prevent the problems. Get comfortable with the idea that your job is to reduce and resolve problems...not eliminate them. You can discuss blended families and get help in our Parenting Advice And Support Forum.
Unique Blended Family Problems:
1. Children divide and conquer parents...blended children are seasoned veterans at this. It's much easier for children in blended families to play their parents...expect it. Each parent has a stronger relationship with their own child than their spouse. If you don't have a battle plan for handling your children...you lose. Decide right now that your spouse is a permanent resident in your home and the kids are temporary. The kids do not have a say in the rules of the house. You and your spouse privately set the rules the same for all kids...bed-time, telephone, eating, chores, allowances, toys, cleaning, dating, homework...all of it. You and your spouse privately agree that you will never contradict each other in front of any of the kids. If you have to work out an adjustment or exception to the rules, do it in private and have a darn good reason. If you think you can do this on-the-fly, let me know when you hit the wall.
2. Ex spouses will disagree with you. It seems silly to mention, since that's how they became ex spouses in the first place, but some people seem shocked by the fact that their ex has other ways of doing things. If you couldn't agree when you were married, what makes you think it should be easier when you're not? It harms your children for these disagreements to be aired in front of them. This won't be easy, because your kids are still playing you against each other (how do you think they became seasoned veterans?), but try to get agreement from the ex-spouse that you will each support the authority of the other for the sake of your children and that if you have any concerns, you will set a time to discuss them without the children present. If you succeed, it means both of you love the child more than you hate each other. If you fail...it's normal. Now, your love for your kid is tested. Even if your ex doesn't agree, criticizes you at every opportunity, screams obscenities at you in front of the kids every time you meet...still...if you love your child, you will support the other parent's authority and never criticize them in front of their child. An exception to this is in the event of violent or sexual abuse...then you should seek every legal resource to keep the child from them, tell the child to report anything to you, it isn't their fault, and it's wrong. See Abuse Survivors Recovery for more on this.
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