There is something special about being part of a family. Even dysfunctional ones with troubled interactions between its members gravitate towards one another during significant times of the year. And, let’s face it – every family is dysfunctional to some degree. Belching contests to see who is the loudest at the Christmas dinner table do not count.
In today’s society, blended families have become the norm as divorced or widowed individuals remarry and form new, blended families with children from previous relationships. Statistics show that 75 percent of divorced people will eventually remarry. Approximately 65 percent of those remarriages involve children from a prior marriage or relationship.
Blended families unquestionably have their share of challenges as new members are brought into the circle with different beliefs and customs. Additional hurdles causing disruptions are age differences between the children; parental inexperience; alterations in family traditions; problems with accepting a new stepparent; changes in family dynamics and, of course, parental insecurities. Keeping all these and many other challenges in mind, a blended family can still be made cohesive by strengthening its foundation with a bond of trust.
- One way to strengthen the family bond is to keep all parents involved. In order for children to adjust in their new blended families, having access to both biological parents is crucial. Therefore, co-parenting is something that all parents in blended families should focus on.
- Clear communication can play a great role in strengthening the bond between family members while preventing misunderstandings. This means being open and honest when communicating with ex-relatives, as well as new members of the family. Whatever the issue, always approach it with sensitivity and respect.
- It is also important to set up specific house rules so as to maintain discipline within the family. Make sure you and your partner discuss your beliefs on parenting and what strategies will be used in the event of a problem. This will help to avoid unnecessary arguments over things like when the kids go out with friends and/or come home late, play loud music, don’t do their homework, speak disrespectfully to another member of the family, etc.
- Parents must strike a balance and try to be as fair as possible when dealing with stepchildren and biological children. For example, don’t be indifferent towards your own children’s needs while getting adjusted, or become sappy-friendly or over-protective with the stepkids.
- Spending quality time on a regular basis with all of your children is critical towards easing the transition and helping the entire family bond together. This can include reading a bedtime story every night or planning weekly trips to the park.
- Another helpful step in strengthening blended families is to seek support from a step-parenting support organization. These can often provide significant guidelines on addressing the challenges of blended families successfully.
In the event your family’s blending efforts continue to be strained or hit a roadblock, please seek the help of a family therapist or mental health professional. A qualified professional can provide insight and make objective suggestions while helping family members work toward specific goals that will bring them closer together. Given the opportunity, blended families can be made strong enough to form lasting and loving relationships.