The Truth About Blended Family Advice: What Parents Really Ought to Pay Attention To

blended family advice

Wise blended family advice would certainly be helpful to a couple with children from a previous relationship and who are considering coming together to form one family. Unfortunately, blended family advice that is actually useful, realistic, and practical isn’t easy to come by. In fact, a lot of advice that parents in future or existing blended families receive are often misleading, giving rise to disappointment — or even worse — broken family relationships.

However, the outlook for blended families need not be so glum. Helpful blended family advice that could help the members of such a family deal with their unique situation actually exists. What’s important is that parents of such families, especially its parents who undeniably set the tone for the children, listen to the right blended family advice. Here are four truths that should serve as important and useful words of wisdom to parents of future or existing blended families:

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1. No Two Blended Family Relations Are Exactly The Same

The problem with a lot of existing blended family advice is they mistakenly assume that blended families fit a singular mold. For example, advice like “Parents should avoid physical displays of affection while the children are still adjusting to their new family setup” wrongly presume that children will be uncomfortable with such showiness. The truth is that children, or the members of each blended family for that matter, handle various situations in their own unique ways. Thus, it’s important for parents to examine the applicability of each piece of blended family advice to their particular situation.

2. Blended Families Will Experience Rough Times

If parents in an extended family find that they’re going through rough patches in their familial relations, they shouldn’t panic. Conflict in families is normal, especially considering the unique setup that blended families find themselves in. What’s important is that rough times, while obviously unpleasant, are viewed as opportunities for an extended family to grow and to get to know each other better.

The best blended family advice for turning these negative situations into positive ones involves dealing with each difficult circumstance in the most mature way possible. The worst thing to do is to ignore such problems and hope they’ll go away. Like cavities in teeth, small cracks in family relations that aren’t paid attention to often blow up into much larger difficulties that definitely become harder to deal with. Therefore, when the slightest hint of a problem shows up, parents ought to address them wisely at the soonest time possible.

3. Forming Smooth Relations In Blended Families Usually Takes Time

This one is very much related to the previous item. All the wise blended family advice in the world will not create a family situation that is perfectly smooth and conflict-free. In fact, pleasant blended family relations may take months, even years, to develop. So while parents struggle to deal with issues that crop up, it’s best that they take the problems in stride and accept that they’re part of the family’s growing process. Parents should take heart in knowing, however, that many blended families eventually find a way to work out difficulties and find themselves in happy and productive family environments.

4. No One Should Create A Blended Family Without Prior Planning

The line “Failing to plan is planning to fail” is certainly applicable to blended families. When a couple with children from a previous relationship make the decision to create a blended family, it becomes absolutely necessary to discuss the current and future upbringing of the children and consider the best blended family advice available. Difficult issues like discipline, rules, religion and the like must be thoroughly deliberated and agreed upon. The more exhaustive the plans are, the more likely unsettling surprises will be avoided, and in turn, the smoother family relations will probably turn out to be. And of course, when the new family setup is finally announced to the children, it’s also essential that the parents discuss their plans with the kids and listen to what they have to say about the forthcoming changes in their lives.

Parents should, however, not fall into the trap of thinking that when things go wrong, parents are automatically to blame for not planning for the new family setup carefully enough or for not heeding the best blended family advice available. As is true for even the most meticulously prepared for projects, plans for the family often don’t turn out exactly as envisioned. When problems do come up — and they unfortunately will — parents should deal with them in the wisest way they know, consider the best blended family advice available to them, adjust their plans if necessary, then move on.

Lastly, when parents in blended families face situations that leave them frustrated and feeling hopeless, it would likely help them to remember that by no means are they alone in the problems they experience. In fact, the four pieces of blended family advice presented here could definitely be applied even to families with more traditional setups. Thus, parents in blended families should take comfort in the fact that problems are a normal part, not only of blended family life, but of family life, in general. What’s important is that parents face each challenge they are dealt with a positive attitude and in a forward-looking manner.

Guidelines To Solve Blended Families Problems

blended families

It’s great when you fall in love again after surviving a painful divorce. You and your new partner are blissfully happy, and you feel that this is a good time to get married and form a blended family with the children you have from your previous marriages.

However, since it can take a long time for blended families to feel comfortable and work well together, the road ahead can be a mixture of satisfying, challenging, and confusing situations, to say the least. The trick to making blended families function properly is to take some time before you remarry, and lay some solid foundations before you actually start living together.

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The following steps will help everyone involved in the blended family, to get used to each other, used to the idea of living together, and most importantly, get used to the idea of being a part of a whole new marriage.

Foundations to lay for your new blended family

  • Avoid unsettling the children with too many drastic changes – Studies have shown that blended families are more successful when the couple have waited at least two years before getting married
  • Don’t have high expectations of loving your partner’s children immediately – You might be madly in love with your new partner, but you will need time to get to know his/her children properly, to allow the love and affection to develop.
  • Take time to experience what “real life” will be like when you live together – Spending time at the beach with all the kids is a lot of fun, but it will not give them the true picture of what it’s going to be like to live together. In blended families, everyone should be given the opportunity to experience what it will be like living together in normal, everyday life situations.
  • Make parental changes before you get married – You and your new partner have your own ideas about bringing up kids, so discuss any parenting issues you may have before you get married, and make any adjustments as to how you’re going to raise the kids together. This will make the transition a lot easier for both sets of kids, and they won’t become angry with you and your partner for initiating these changes when you’re living together under one roof.
  • Do not allow ultimatums – There might come a time when your new partner and your kids put you in a position where you are expected to choose between them. Be firm, and let them know that you want them all to be a part of your life.
  • Insist that they respect each other – There are no hard and fast rules that blended families have to like each other, but make it a rule in your home that they have to show respect for one another.
  • Lower your expectations – You will probably put a lot of time and energy, affection and love in your new partner’s kids, but don’t expect these to be returned from day one, because it more than likely won’t happen. Children in blended families need time to get used to their new step parents, but the rewards are usually wonderful in the end.

Blended families must have clear, safe boundaries

Discipline plays a big role in developing trust, so parents in blended families should discuss their roles as step-parents in raising their respective kids, including the changes in household rules. Experts suggest that blended families use the following steps to make the transition a bit easier for everyone:

  • Step parents in blended families should come across as a counselor or friend, rather than a strict disciplinarian
  • The biological parent in blended families should discipline his/her own kids, until a bond has developed between him/her and the partner’s kids
  • Blended families must have a set of new rules. These should be discussed with the children and displayed in a prominent place. If possible, be consistent, and try to make the new rules as close as possible to those that the children had in their former homes.

In conclusion

Some blended families find it extremely difficult to make things work, and if this is the case with you, your new partner, and your respective children, then it might be a good idea to get help from an outside source such as a therapist, which could result in immediate positive changes. You can get referrals for a good therapist who specializes in helping blended families to function properly, from friends and family members, mental health associations, or your family doctor.

Stepping On The Toes Of Your Step Daughter

step daughter

You’re not my Mom

The struggles with a blended family are often the struggles of being the step-parent trying to establish a relationship with step daughters. Especially, if the father had been a single father raising his daughter’s prior to your marriage.

The stigma of the step parent is a mighty one mainly because of the portrayal of the relationship between step parent and the child being anything but pleasant.

Although this is the typical stereotype, having a healthy relationship with your step daughter is critical in the security and happiness of your family. Not an easy task being 60% of second marriages fails due to turbulent relationships between a step parent and step daughter.

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Being a step mom and not stepping on toes

He had been a single dad raising two teenage daughters for a while, and I had been single for quite awhile and was the mom of a nine-year old son with autism and my six year old little girl.

Although we both had been single parents for some time, the age of our children and the fact that I had one with special needs grew to be a concern.

He had only had his daughters full-time for the past two years, where I had been a mom with mine all their life. So, the concern was there on my behalf as to how he and his daughters were going to take with me and my two young ones. Especially one with autism and being the only boy.

Things were great when we were dating. But, once we married and became a family, boy was there change with my step daughters. Some of this I take the blame, some, I lay off the girls, but a lot I blame on their dad.

What do you mean wash dishes?

I was raised in the south, in a home where we had chores to do, and we did them without asking any questions. My resentment started early in the marriage when I began to realize I not only became their stepmother, I became their maid.

My step daughters had no responsibilities around the house, and whenever I mentioned this to their dad, he went to their defense instantly. His reasoning was when they moved in with him; all they had to do was their laundry.

Well, this was obvious from the looks of the house when I moved in with them. Tension grew between me and my youngest step daughter. She is very close to her father, and he refused to do anything to ruffle her feathers in fear of her wanting to go back to her moms.

I backed off, and things within my marriage begin to crumble. I felt my children were treated unfairly not being given the same attention he gave to my step daughters, and I resented this, big time.

So, are you just THEIR mom, or what?

As you can probably guess where this led, the straw finally snapped, and my husband and I came to blows. Well, not literally, but, I said I was leaving, and he said, fine.

The day this happened just happened to fall on the day of my step daughters sweet 16-birthday party that I had done all the leg work to make special just for her.

After about one hour of sitting at home stewing, I decided it wasn’t right for me to miss her party whether I was angry or not. I also wanted to talk to her, one-on-one. The time had come that we both needed to be heard.

The conversation between my step daughter that day changed the direction of our relationship as well as everyone else’s in our blended family.
She had lost the relationship with her mother over time and felt all she had was her dad. Then, I came along and in the beginning I didn’t introduce my children to them, so, therefore, all she had seen from me was my undivided attention.

That is until I began to allow our two families to mingle; then we married, becoming one. My time was spent mainly with my two little one’s not expecting my teenage step daughters needed me as much as my little ones did.

Truth is, the children of a blended family need more love and attention than what we give them credit for. What we as adults are asking them to do is understand and accept grown-up problems, when they are still struggling with the grief of their family splitting.

Then you add other children that are receiving love from a mother that they aren’t receiving from their own anger and bitterness, and jealousy kicks in overdrive.

Through our talk that day with my step daughter, I realized she needed me as a mother to her as much as my children needed me. All this time I was trying not to step on her mother’s toes was really putting a wedge between myself and my step daughter.

Removing that step and just being a parent

What is important for step parents to understand is, kids need time with their biological parent, but they also crave one-on-one time getting to know and trust their new parent.

Step daughters are different with the new women in their life because they see her as a threat. Make sure you give your husband and your step daughter their time to do things together as they once did.

With that being said, make sure you carve out time to do things with just you and your step daughter that will make her feel you want to be around her too, and not just your spouse.

If your child is the step daughter, make sure she understands that your spouse is not the blame for the breakup of her family. Watching your own daughter become someone’s step daughter is just as terrifying.

How the new person in your life treats them is as critical in your eyes as how you would treat them. Demand respect from your spouse to treat their new step daughter as he expects you to treat his daughters. That mutual respect goes both ways.

The bottom line is to love one another as a family you married to become. When we married, I made sure I included all our children in our service so that there was an understanding we were two families merging to become one.

All six of us lit our unity candle together to remind us of this sometimes battle. But in the end, sharing our love with each other has become a beautiful thing and those “steps” have been easily removed.

Common Problems With Blended Families And How To Overcome Them

common problems with blended families

When two become one

Blended families that once were individual families have many hurdles they have to cross. What was once two separate families each having their own history become one, they now have to establish its own memories.  Below you will find common problems with blended families and how to overcome them.

For many children, this can be a frustrating battle. Blended family problems and struggles of the children rise when the life they once knew no longer exist. A new family and family structure now becomes their life. Now there are new names, most associated with the word “step.”

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Rare families pull this off without repercussions within the family structure. Blending families allow a person that has no blood relation to the children involved the power to become a person of authority. Blended family problems can be a frightening and fragile situation that is draining on all those involved.

Many hard or angry feelings are often tucked away due to the children feeling as though they no longer feel as important as they once felt.

Many struggling emotions

  • Jealousy of other step-siblings
  • Jealous of the new spouse
  • Hatred
  • Anger
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling powerless and underestimated
  • Feeling of grief from letting of family history and memories.

 A populated world of blended families

Today, over half the families living together live as blended families and blended family problems. Meaning the divorce rate has tripled over the past generation. Blended family problems are problems regular families seldom face. Merging two families together under one household can be a difficult life, but one that offers many rewards.

With 50% of all families, divorced and re-married with children being from a blended family has become common. Struggles and challenges not only come from the new family structure, but the problems from a divorce still linger. It’s rare that a divorce has happened with the two parties communicating on friendly terms.The roll over’s are blended family problems worst nightmare.

The bitterness lingers in the children involved causing bad feelings for one parent taking the blame for the divorce. Often the situation is the parent that remarried was the cause of the divorce. Most children blame the new step-parent for the breakup.

Keeping the doors of communication open

The relationship between the stepparent and the biological parent can go one of two ways. Either it can be a happy, harmonious one or it can be one filled with hatred and bitterness. Step parents often feel their voice goes unheard with everyday decisions. Decisions made without the step-parents input often causes problems and is another of the common problems with blended families.

It is a common tactic of step children to play the biological parent against the step-parent. Stepmothers feel rejected as an important decision maker when the father takes side with the child.

If the father had custody of his children before the blending of two families, he has a tendency of pampering his children. Daughters tend to be jealous of the new woman in the dad’s life.

Communication is an important necessity in a blended family. If this avenue closes, conflicts can and will arise. The door remains open, allowing conflicts and disagreements to consume the family time.

There remains a need for all adults involved remain mature and handle all situations away from the children. Adults can discuss things in a different manner when on a mature level than when pressured with the child’s presence.

If the children see the adults attempting to work on situations as a couple, they tend to feel their family is secure. If they feel threatened of losing their place in the blended family, there is a stronger need to lash out.

10 Ways To Overcome Common Problems With Blended Families

1). After a divorce, the idea of dating for some seems impossible. For others, the idea of being alone can be overwhelming.

After finding love again, there is the temptation of rushing into remarrying. While basking in the presence of finding new love, you need to lay a strong foundation for your children by taking things slow.

By taking things slow, this offers everyone involved the time they need to adjust to the new changes in their life. Approaching the subject on blending the two families while everyone gets used to hearing the word “marriage.”

2). Don’t expect yourself to fall in love with your future spouse’s children in a short time span. Same for your future spouse with your children. It takes time for love and bonding to take place. Give each other the needed time to get to know each other.

The more time spent together; the more feelings will prosper. Just because your partner adores their own children doesn’t mean you will overnight.

3). Experience real life as a blended family together. Engaging in activities that happen in everyday life is needed for the two sides to learn what life is like away from just doing fun stuff. Sure going to Disney or a water park is fun, and these are important, real life scenarios are important as well.

4). Making necessary changes both parents agree to handle prior to marriage. Both parents need to agree that it will be both parenting together and not just one doing all the work. Making the needed changes before marriage allows new rules to begin. Therefore, the new parent doesn’t take the blame.

5). Never give ultimatums. There will be many times you feel as though you are in the middle with the need to choose one over the other. Make sure everyone involved understands you want them all in your life and not one.

6). Demand respect! You can’t make people like one another if they choose not to. You can insist that people show one another respect. More importantly, demand respect for yourself.

7). Do not set your expectations too high. As a parent, you will give a lot of your time, love, affection and energy on your step-children in the beginning. Expecting the same in return is only going to cause you grief and heartache. Continue to do these things with the knowledge that someday it will be returned.

8). Always be supportive of the children and your new spouse in their endeavors. Children are likely to open up and offer communication if they feel your support and Cheer them on as their number one fan. Involve yourself in their activities showing you care about the things that are important to them.

9). Offer hugs as much as possible. Hugging your children comes natural. Stepchildren will want your affection too with time. Give hugs even when it feels like an unwanted gesture.

10). Never talk bad about the other parent or a new parent in front of the children. Making the children feel like you are attacking their biological parent is one way to close the door on establishing a bond.

Common problems with blended families will happen. Finding ways to put out fires before they become catastrophic is the key. Children want to feel loved, wanted and secure. Offering these things will make any blended family a happier family.

For more articles about divorce, step parenting, and blended families, visit our home page:

Positive Parenting Suggestions for New Step-fathers/Step-mothers

step child

Our culture has more and more blended families everyday. While blended families bring some great new experiences to life, they also present some challenges. So what do you do when you suddenly become a new step-parent?

The first step in learning to discipline a new step-child is to NOT discipline the child. You are not the child’s parent, so you don’t have the natural bond that the child has with his or her biological parents. Your new spouse may be expecting you to suddenly take up the role of disciplinarian, but that is a recipe for disaster.

The first thing you need to do is develop a positive parenting relationship with your new step-child. Figure out what it is that your step-child likes to do, and participate in those activities with the child. Say your step-son plays baseball. Even if you don’t like baseball, attend his games. After the game take him out for ice cream. Tell him what a good job he did. Show your new step-child that you’re interested in him. Play with your new step-child. If you both love video games, play a video game together. Let him show you how to beat a game (Even if you’ve already beaten the game yourself 20 times!)

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The key to ultimately being able to effectively parent your new step-child is to build a Positive Parenting relationship from the start. You need to take the back seat when it comes to disciplining your step-child until you’ve solidified a positive parenting relationship with the child. A positive parenting relationship with your step-child should start with showing your step-child that you are genuinely interested in him and then move on to a place of mutual respect. As the years go by and your step-child learns to respect you, the discipline and parenting will naturally fall in place.

Trends – Living Apart Together

living apart

My husband and I are onto something . . .

As a widowed divorce lawyer, I was uniquely aware of how difficult it is for blended families to combine households. So when my new husband and I decided to get married, I was concerned about how a widow with 4 children and a single-dad with joint custody of three children could possibly live together. The solution was easy: don’t.

Old problem; New Solution

We’re not alone in our conclusion that living apart is an elegant solution to an age-old problem. A paper published by Princeton University in 2008 studied “Live Apart Together” relationships and concluded that “a greater number of break-ups of second unions, as well as the abundance of media reports about couples in Live Apart Together relationships may have contributed to the rise of this more independent form of relationship.”

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Living Apart Puts Kids First

We realized quickly that unless we found (and could even afford!) an 8-bedroom home, cohabiting would necessarily require us to install everyone in shared rooms and bunk beds-something we wanted to avoid in an attempt to give everyone their own retreat from a hectic household.

We concluded that it was better for adults-with “adult” coping skills-to sacrifice waking up side-by-side every day than it was for our seven children to sacrifice their bedrooms, their privacy, their personal possessions (“No that’s MY iPod!!”), and their budding relationship as life-long step-siblings.

So, now instead of asking “When can they leave?” my kids are eager to see their step-siblings and ask “When are they coming?” and “How long can they stay?”

“You’re Not My Mom!!”

As a widow, I am my children’s only parent. They need time and attention from me alone without a step-parent’s constant presence. My step-children, on the other hand, only have access to my husband one-half of the time under his divorce decree. We felt it would be unfair to his children to make them compete for attention with my kids during that precious “one-half” of their time.

Living apart gives us each just enough elbow room to raise our children under our own unique rules and in a way that honors or respects the children’s other parent, while still giving them all the benefits of a loving and involved step-parent.

Marriage ala carte!

Living apart allows us to “cherry pick” all the good parts of marriage while mitigating the hard parts. My husband does hours upon hours of yoga. He also obsesses over baseball . . . all at his own house. Living apart means he doesn’t have to compromise his “alone time” or temper interests and attitudes that could become invasive and annoying if I was exposed to them 24/7.

Separate but Equal

Living apart creates a relationship of true equality: I do the dishes at my house; he does the dishes at his. The day-to-day responsibilities that may become lopsided and that may cause resentment between cohabiting spouses are naturally and equally divided between us. The result is that our marriage is almost entirely devoid of conflict. We do not squabble over who “forgot to stop at the grocery store” or who “never takes out the trash.” To each his own.

Cautions and Caveats

Despite its benefits, a “Live Apart Together” relationship is not for everyone. There are certain caveats that must be considered for such an arrangement to be successful:

You have to live in proximity and have similar lifestyles

The houses need to be close enough to allow each partner quick and easy access to the other and should be similar in terms of style and value-it would be an unworkable situation if one family was living in a shack in the countryside while the other was living 15 miles away in a suburban mansion.

You have to value independence and personal responsibility

You must be the kind of person who likes and needs to be independent and who values autonomy. If you are lonely, clingy, or the kind of person who is insecure and indecisive, a live-apart lifestyle will leave you feeling isolated and uncertain.

You can’t be the suspicious or jealous type

When your spouse goes home for the night, there will be 8 or more hours of his time that is unaccounted for. When you don’t see him off to work in the morning, and are not there when he comes home at night, you must be the kind of person who can trust he is the same person when he is with you as he is when he is not. If you cannot handle some physical and emotional distance, this lifestyle is not for you.

It is more expensive-but not cost-prohibitive-to live apart

You will have two cable bills and two mortgages and two electric bills, etc. But, you would have those anyway if you had never met each other. Combining households can mitigate and mainstream certain expenses, but the intangible costs of cohabitation and the taxes on your relationship with your spouse and children must be part of any cost-benefit analysis.