Unlocking the Potential in Blended Families

Blended families
I prefer to think of it as a…

Stew-Pot Family

Marriage has tremendous potential for many good things! Also, marriage and raising children has many challenges. It’s not easy to create all your heart desires as a spouse and parent.

Having said that, I would say that those who marry and try to form a Blended Family, will find that there is even more potential for challenge. Even the term Blended can conjure up the wrong idea. Too often we think that all of us should be the same and just like any other family, where the children have all experienced each other from birth and there are no ‘other parents’ involved. The Blended Family is not worse or better, just different.

I’m just going to list a couple of things that are good to keep in mind:

  • Even if an ex-spouse is acting in a problematic way, the other parent needs to try provide stability and comfort to the children. Take personal responsibility. Both parents being problematic make things worse. Do not bad mouth other parent.
  • Some people think it is best to tell the children ‘The Truth’ about why the marriage ended. I would suggest that parents don’t always tell their kids the truth about their relationship issues, especially when the children are young. It is good to ask yourself, ‘how will this information be good for my child and what pains might it cause them?’ The truth is also very subjective.
  • If we have ‘Your, Mine and Our Children’ then it is important to accept that each of those relationships will have differences. It is good to be fair and loving and yet the context for each relationship and the history will differ. No child should be made to feel second class or less than and yet there is difference. Over time the step-child relationship can become stronger. A lot will depend on the age of the children. The child will often have fears that they will be seen as disloyal by their absent parent, if they get too close to the Step-Parent. They need to be assured that no one can ever replace the biological parent relationship.
  • Divorce is a transition that brings change. Children need to be helped to move through that change well. Divorce will be hard for the children to understand and deal with but the parents and step-parents behavior is what can make the transition and life of the child tougher to cope with.
  • When the children are moving between houses the adults involved should do all in their power to make the movement as hassle free as possible. Try to make the time hopeful for the kids. Be careful about your language and body language when the change is occurring. When the children are with you then try to listen to them carefully and allow them to share positive things with you about the other parent. Try to help them with all practical matters in the movement between homes.
  • There should be good structures of communication set up between both parent’s homes. Never use the children to deliver messages to the absent parent. Try to set up healthy means of communication. Kids still need to feel a solid parenting relationship. Remember, you divorced as a husband and wife but not from parenting the children. The evening before a change of house is a good time to communicate about the children. Depending on your relationship with your ex-spouse, this can be telephone, personal, text, etc. You might find it useful to have an agreed list of topics to share.
  • Step-PARENTS are involved in parenting. I would suggest that they assist the biological parent and try not to become the main disciplinarian. This will depend on the age of the children and the relationship with the ex-spouse. Even if all the adults involved have a good relationship I would suggest it is better to let the biological parent be the main disciplinarian.

The above statements are generic and not meant to apply to every situation. It is good to find an experienced Marriage and Family Therapist to assist the family when issues don’t seem to get resolved. It can also be useful to be proactive when you are remarrying with children.

Tony Fryer