Making Blended Families Work

When families blend together to become stepfamilies it is not usually the smooth process the newly-married parents envision. New families just don’t come together very easily. Children resist changes. Parents parent differently. And children respond differently to stepparents than they do to parents.
counseling for blended families remarried with children

Becoming a blended family can also create loyalty problems for children who might feel that they were being disloyal to their other parent if they were to become too fond of their new stepparent.

There are many factors to consider:

  • what are the ages and genders of the stepsiblings?
  • are there children so close in age they are in the same grade? the same class?
  • are the children so far apart in age they are essentially of different generation?
  • do both of the stepparents have their own children, or has one never been a parent before?
  • do both stepparents have equivalent understanding of the stages that children go through?
  • are both stepparents equivalently close with their children?
  • how much time have the children spent living with their parent as a single person?
  • how similar and how different are the traditions and expectations of the two new extended families?
  • how well do the parents get along and coparent with their ex-spouses?

One important rule of thumb is to establish the stepparent as more of a counselor or colleague rather than a disciplinarian, and have the biological parent remain primarily responsible for disciplining his or her own children. This should be the norm until the stepparent has developed very solid bonds with the children, and until the stepparents themselves have a come to a firm agreement on how they will coparent the children.

Becoming a blended family is a rewarding but also a challenging process, and it just takes time and work before it will begin to function smoothly and well.