In This Article
In This Article
Research shows that approximately half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. Most divorcees go on to remarry or at least move in together with a new partner. In addition, over 50 percent of children in the U.S. live with a step-parent in addition to their biological parents and many share their home with step siblings. It is from here that the concept of a blended family is born.
But what exactly is a blended family?
Well, if one were to define a blended family, it would be - Blended families, or stepfamilies, are formed when two people enter into a relationship, and at least one of these individuals has children from a past relationship. Such families are getting more and more common.Blended families offer many unique advantages but also come bundled with some blended family challenges. To deal with them, blended families counseling becomes a necessity.
Being part of a blended family has advantages and disadvantages:
The first years of a blended family are likely to be challenging. Some of the most common blending family issues or common problems with blended families include, for example:
A common blended family problem could be that one of the parents might have no experience raising children and be overwhelmed with their new responsibilities.
This is especially true if the new partner has had no children of their own. Jealousy issues between ex- and current partners are common in blended families.
A child may also feel, at least unconsciously, that liking his new step-parent is a sign of disloyalty towards their biological parent. A stepparent, on the other hand, may feel insecure about parenting the stepchild out of fear of hurting his or her new partner.
This might make a child feel confused about the different rules and habits of different homes. A child is likely to miss their biological parent and siblings if they spend most of their time with one parent over another.
Going for regular blended families counseling can help in overcoming a few, if not all, of the challenges.
Don’t rush into it. Give yourself and your children time to heal from a divorce or the end of your last relationship before rushing into moving in together with a new partner. Too many sudden changes can be quite stressful for all of you. If your children had to change schools and move to a new home after the divorce, give them some time to get used to their new life.
The same blended family advice applies to parents. You may have gotten a new job, moved to a new city, or lost many of your old friends. Easy does it when it comes to blended families.
Lower your expectations. Don’t expect to fall in love with your new stepchildren right away and don’t expect your new partner to be an amazing parent towards your biological child right away. Your new partner and your child don’t know each other and it takes time to get to know and trust others.
Also, don’t expect to have the most romantic relationship with your new partner in the beginning. If you are used to having date nights and plenty of alone time with your partner when you were dating, things may not be quite as romantic when you live together. You have to learn to share your partner with the kids and get used to different routines.
Set up rules. A common question that parents ask as two families start blending together is how to deal with stepchildren issues. The answer lies in making a few rules clear from the beginning.
When two people become parents together for the first time, it is always necessary to discuss the rules of the family and parenting styles issues. New parents tend to learn together and make these rules naturally as the children grow. With blended families, this is different.
Children expect you to follow the same set of rules when it comes to discipline, household tasks, etc. If you don’t, your children are going to feel quite confused and there will likely be lots of arguments.
Sit down with your partner to discuss your house rules and parenting styles, preferably before you move in together. But if that’s something you and your partner didn’t get the time to do and you start facing issues, then going for blended families counseling with your partner or your children may help.
Many families seek help from a therapist for their blended family issues. Some common problems with blended families where a therapist can help include:
As part of blended families counseling, a mental health professional such as a psychologist or a counselor can help all family members resolve any grief, anger, bitterness, and sadness that the end of your previous relationships might have left behind.
A blended family therapist will also teach both adults and children of the family how to communicate with one another without arguments. All family members are taught how to express their feelings and ask for things that they need and want in an effective way.
You and your partner may need extra help with your parenting skills so you know how to parent your stepchildren that may need quite different parenting than your biological children.
Since there have been so many changes in your lives in a short period of time, it is likely that you all feel quite stressed. Because of this, you may want a therapist to teach all family members some age-appropriate ways to manage stress.
There are a number of family therapies that can help blended families. A few of the blended families counseling therapy types include the following:
Family therapy - Most of the sessions of this kind of blended family therapy can be attended as a group or the therapist can have seperate sessions with one/both parents as well as sessions with each child.
Narrative family therapy - This therapy offers counseling for blended families to unblock communication by separating people from their problems. It works by letting each family member share their issues and feelings.
Family systems therapy - This type of therapy looks at a family like a system and adopts structural and strategic approaches to help them by observing in-session family interactions and interaction patterns outside therapy.
Attachment-based family therapy - It is quite helpful for people and relationships that are being affected by external issues that have little to do with the blended family setup. Blended families with teens having depression or suicidal thoughts and tendencies can benefit from this.
Family Attachment Narrative Therapy - This type of therapy helps parents and stepparents heal their children by helping them process and recover from any trauma, grief or confusion. This way, the bond between the parents and the children is improved.
You can even try being part of blended family support groups where the challenges faced by your family can be discussed with an open mind.
Family therapy rates vary from about $75 to $200 per hour. Some therapists accept insurance and some do not, while some offer sliding scale fees based on income. Family therapy requires fewer sessions as compared to individual therapy. Studies even show that family therapy can bring down the cost of healthcare use by 21.5%.