Blended families, also known as stepfamilies, are those in which one or both of the parents have brought children from a previous relationship into a new marriage. In blended families, some or all of the children may not be the biological children of one of the parents, and this can lead to some challenging situations.
The number of stepfamilies in the U.S. continues to rise with the divorce rate, which stands at about 50 percent of marriages. But this has been a common part of our culture for decades; even as far back as the 1960s, around 30 percent of families included at least one child from a previous marriage.
If you’re starting a blended family, one of the most important things for you to do is remain patient. It could take several years for the members of your new family to settle in together and for new family traditions to be comfortably established. But it will be worth it in the end!
Another thing you’re going to need is a plan for consistent rules and discipline. Children need to have consistency in their lives, so it’s important to make sure you and your spouse are on the same page, as well as any other biological parents who might be involved in the situation.
If you’re not sure how to get started, try sitting down with your blended family and developing a list of values you’d all like to live by. Once you have that, you’ll have an easier time agreeing on rules and discussing what will happen when family members break those rules.
Because being consistent is important, it’s also going to be necessary for you and your ex (or your new spouse and their ex) to be on the same page about some of these things. Try to be amiable about it, and don’t let your kids hear you talking badly about an ex. Tension over who likes whom and who struggles to get along with whom is one of the main sources of difficulty in a blended family.
If you’re having a particularly difficult time getting along with someone else in this difficult blended family situation, you might find therapy or family counseling helpful to get you back on the right path. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; we all need it sometimes!
We would like to thank one of our readers, Robbie Richards, for submitting the idea for this article. Robbie works with Rawhide Boys Ranch, a non-profit supporting at youth-risk youth in Wisconsin, and he made an amazing infographic to help people learn more about understanding and handling the challenges of blended families.
Check out the infographic below!
Do you have a story or idea you’d like to share with us? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?