The Brady Bunch showed the innocent ups and downs of children in a blended family. Divorced mom, widowed dad, a new family of eight, plus a flighty housekeeper and a large pet. This combo made for interesting, wholesome TV but, in real life, a blended family – beautiful as it may be – is a challenge.
Causes of Stress in a Blended Family
The divorce rate for a first marriage maintains its position right around the 50 percent mark. That means there are plenty of people entering second marriages and cohabitation. Whether you legally wed someone again or just live together, everyone brings to a new relationship their own unique “baggage.” For many, this baggage is children.
Second marriages are difficult and the divorce rate among them is high. Dealing with stepchildren can complicate matters, as navigating the waters of parenting someone else’s children is a minefield, for you, the kids, and your new spouse.
Here are just some of the difficulties blended families face as they merge their lives and take on new roles:
- Divided loyalties: Most kids are fiercely loyal to their parents. After a divorce, mom and dad will still be #1, but what happens when there is a stepparent in the mix? A child may love them but feel guilty about it. Another child may be inclined to rebel or do all he or she can to hate the new person, refuse to bond, or nurse jealousy or resentment. Then there are the exes who feed their kids with negative stuff to pit them against their new stepparent.
- Stepsiblings: Stepsiblings don’t always get along, even though they’re in the same boat. Depending on the reestablished living arrangements, there may be a new school to acclimate to, a different home, and a new neighborhood. Some stepsiblings find joy in each other, while just as many butt heads, causing grief and strain within the home.
- Discipline: “You’re not my mom!” “You’re not my dad!” Blended households echo with statements like these, especially when the blending isn’t going smoothly. Quite often, stepparents unintentionally favor their biological children and clash with their stepchildren when it come to rules. Or, they may be more lenient to gain favor. These dynamics drive a wedge between stepparent and stepchild, but also between parent and biological child and the newlyweds.
- A new baby: Some couples who have blended their families choose to unite the entire crew by having a baby of their own. This move can help some children bond knowing they truly share something now, while other kids may see this new child as an intrusion who is taking their place or who symbolizes the new relationship, disregarding all that happened in the past.
- The in-laws: If your former in-laws are involved grandparents, they will want to maintain an active role in your kids’ lives. Then there are the new grandparents who have entered the mix. A child in a blended home can end up with eight grandparents or more, though some may not embrace your kids as much as you might like, or they may welcome them into the family a little too heartily for your taste. Managing the expectations of extended family is just one more challenge for a blended home.
Making a Blended Family Work
It may seem like creating a harmonious blended family is almost impossible, but it’s not. Couples who actively prepare for stepparent roles have greater success in their relationship. They know the merging of two families is going to be a challenge, and they’re prepared to face it head-on.
Just because you’re in love with a new person, that doesn’t mean these feelings will be enough to hold a blended family together. Preparation is key. And, it is not guaranteed that everything will eventually iron itself out in a blended family. If you find yourself facing child custody challenges, paternity questions, or another Michigan divorce, contact Femminineo Attorneys PLLC in Mount Clemens for support.