The number of step-families or blended families in the U.S. is rapidly increasing over the years. I cannot say an exact number of these types of families because there is so much variance on these statistics, but it is clear that this number will continue to grow as time goes on. The other number that sadly increases with this growth is the rate of divorce in blended families. We know the divorce rate in the U.S. is getting high but to think that a lot of these families are more likely to go through it again is tragic. So how do we prevent a second divorce? How do we blend our families to create happiness and bliss? Why is our blended family struggling so much? Is it supposed to be this hard?
These are questions I not only hear when couples and families come into counseling but that I have had myself as I began my second marriage bringing together not only two families but many families. Blended families generally do not just involve mom and dad with kids trying to make it work but adding mom’s and dad’s exes, the kid’s other step siblings, half siblings, or biological parents, their families, and extended families. My biological children went from 3 sets of grandparents to 5 within 7 months which now meant coordinating family get togethers, birthdays, holidays, activities, etc. with 5 different families. Then add in coordinating things with my step children’s other families. Blending a family was a lot harder to do than my husband and I imagined and this part is just one of the many difficult hurdles it brings.
When blended families marry, moms and dads are now trying to figure out how to parent together as well as figuring out how to parent with the other children’s parents (the exes) and every parent does and wants things done differently. Learning how to get on the same page when it comes to parenting is probably one of the main things I work on with couples blending families. A few key things to keep in mind when parents are becoming step parents:
- No one family is the same. What works for one blended family might not work for your blended family.
- Age and temperament of the child(ren) play a big role in how to approach ways to become a parenting team for that child(ren).
- Even in nuclear families, parents parent differently. All moms and dads have different approaches when it comes to parenting so it is completely normal that step parents do as well.
- Communication and compromise between husband and wife has to be used a lot.
- It is hard but that doesn’t mean you have to give up. There are a lot of online resources to help blended families. Some cities offer classes for step families. There are also many counselors that can help. It can be very beneficial to begin marriage and family counseling before or immediately after the marriage to help your family from the beginning when going down such a new and challenging road.
Learning how to blend your family will not come from reading one blog post or two or three. Parents need to learn a lot about the different methods for step families and find what works for them. This includes implementing different approaches that might not always be by the book but make your family happy. It is a tough road and your family is not alone but it is possible to find happiness and bliss keeping in mind that every family, no matter the type, has its own struggles.