It was quiet around the dinner table.
Josh and Melissa glared at each other.
Their kids shifted in their seats, and stared the floor, or at the ceiling.
They were all tired, fed up, shell-shocked.
This didn’t feel like “blending” at all.
They felt like pushing, shoving, and ramming into each other.
And after a tough first year of marriage, Josh and Melissa were starting to wonder if blending their families was even possible.
Blending families is full of challenges.
The majority of blended families fail, not because it’s impossible, but because family members are unprepared for the strain and resentment that sets in.
To turn things around, identify whether these common obstacles are making trouble for your family and get some help soon:
Overwhelm: If you and your spouse find that you’re constantly battling each other over parenting styles, family traditions, household responsibilities, or familial expectations, you may have entered the blending experience without sufficient planning.
Remember that you’re in this together. You have to make your marriage a priority. It’s important to take a step back, and reconnect with your partner frequently to discuss what’s working, and what isn’t. Work out compromises and create a solid foundation for your household.
Consider employing the help of a counsellor to assist you in navigating the challenges of marriage, developing trust and intimacy between you, and establishing a family identity.
Angry stepchildren: Your children, however accepting they seemed while you were dating, may not be on board with the changes that accompany marriage. Acting out is a child’s protest and not uncommon.
Mutual respect is a must in your home, as is compassion and respect for children’s feelings.
Communicate that you’re not there to steal their biological parent’s affection or replace the absent parent. It’s a good idea to allow biological parents to handle the discipline of their own children. It takes time to build trust and understanding. Blending happens gradually, as those elements increase.
Kids may need an outlet to communicate their frustrations. Consider family counselling to ensure they feel heard.
Step sibling drama: It really isn’t realistic to expect a houseful of previously unrelated children to bond in sibling harmony just because you ask them to.
Kids have a lot to manage relationally, new stepparents, new extended family, shared space, not to mention sharing their biological parent with these new siblings. Getting used to it may take a long time.
Do what you can to encourage patience and respect. But be realistic. Kids need time to feel each other out, choose to get know each other, and work out their own relationships.
Exes, expectations and boundaries: The blended family often comes with other relationships, obligations, and entanglements that affect your home together. The relationship balancing act between you, your kids, and your previous relationships can get stressful.
Do your best to set clear boundaries, and check in with your partner to ensure he or she is comfortable with the current arrangement. Maintaining clear rules and expectations in your home will help retain stability, as children of divorce depart and return.
Unrealistic expectations: Blending a family is not black and white. It’s not all angelic children or evil stepparents. It’s a winding path through difficult emotions toward understanding and respect.
Often a couple will feel so let down by the experience, they give up too soon. It’s vital that you get help for your family. Guidance and expertise can help all members of a blended family learn how to communicate, and contribute meaningfully in their new situation.
Blended families face significant challenges. Gather encouraging allies, and do what it takes to meet those challenges together.
If you and your partner are struggling with blending your respective families, call Neil on 07970 860 711 to arrange couples counselling.