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Issues to Consider For A Couple Planning to Blend Families

Updated on August 9, 2012
In blending families, there are times that you may feel as useful as a beached old boat. It is normal to go through such times of feeling useless and unwanted as the family works through the blending.
In blending families, there are times that you may feel as useful as a beached old boat. It is normal to go through such times of feeling useless and unwanted as the family works through the blending.

Having grown up in a blended family, I have some biases in dealing with the issue of blended families. My experiences in coming from a blended family and in working with many blended families have given me unique perspectives. You need to enter the whole blending with open eyes and an open mind. You need to know what you are getting into. These are some of the initial issues you need to consider. You love your spouse, and want to make things work. Blending families is messy. The parts are not interchangeable.

I can’t tell you the one best piece of advice or item, since there are so many to consider. Since you are dealing with people, there are many pieces always in motion and always changing. The issues that are important one month are not the priority another month. Since the dynamics are always changing, you will have to develop flexibility in handling those changing dynamics.

There are many issues needing your attention when considering a blended family. Although blended families have become more prevalent in the United States, the large numbers do not mean that the arrangement is working or that it is popular. In blending a family, you are assembling a new structure with broken people. Everyone you are dealing with has suffered a loss, if not several of them. Since they have suffered losses, they often have a heightened sensitivity to rejection. This sensitivity can still be very raw, even if the original family of origin has not existed for years. Even when you do not mean to reject them, they may take it that way. The formation of the blended family often means that the original family is gone, really gone.

Blending a family takes time. If you are expecting the family to function within a years’ time, you are deluding yourself. Under the best of circumstances, it will take you two years or longer before the blended family functions in a healthy manner. This means that you will need to be realistic in your expectations. You are trying to shift people and their emotions from mine and yours to ours. Hollywood has made movies and television shows about it. Although these productions bring humor to a tough situation, families do not often come together quickly.

The parents will need to establish themselves in that role. Just because you are in the role of parent, it does not mean that the children automatically respect you. Their disrespect is not always rebellion. Respect is an attribute that you need to earned. The children will need to believe that you really do love them and have their best interest at heart. As they go through the adjustment, there will be times that they test your authority. It is important that you do not take that testing personal. Recall that your sensitivity to rejection is at work as well.

The children may have to live in two or more worlds. Transitioning between those two worlds can be tough. That means that you will need to accommodate those adjustments. Although the transition may be as mild as just visiting their other parents every other weekend, it can be more radical. The different worlds that children live in may have different values, rules and expectations. When there are radical differences between the worlds, some adjustment time is needed. That means that it may take a couple of days after each visit before they are back to your family routine.

With the different worlds, there are often clashes in values and world views. This means that you will need to have written rules and be consistent in following them. The rules will work best when they apply to you and to them as well. Children often resent when you have one set of rules that apply to yourself and another that applies to them. That may mean that you need to adjust and accommodate some things. The family will need to have some flexibility with people entering and leaving it.

When you are in a blended family, you often do not have direct authority over everything you would like. You may not even have full legal authority. The courts may have retained authority or split the authority for the children between the parents of all the families. When you are dealing with such an awkward authority structure, you will need to adjust to it. When you do not have all the authority, you can not be hard nosed about many of the rules that you want. You are not in full control. The children know that you are not in control as well. That means that your thinking will need to change. You can not run a blended family the same way you can run a family or origin. Mixing up those expectations will bring you more grief.

Handling the discipline issues is often a touchy matter. You and your new spouse will need to handle discipline as a team. In handling the discipline you will need to have consistency and fairness. The children will quickly pick up on any favoritism in how you handle things. The children may not like the fairness and consistency, yet it is important to maintain that over time, in order to develop a sense of security and stability within the home.

Although you may be used to being a hands on parent when it comes to discipline, in blended families, the rules change. You often have to change your approaches to discipline along with which consequences go with which offenses. In some cases, you may have to be accountable to courts and ex-spouses which makes hands on parenting a thing of the past. You will also be second guessed and questioned about each choice that you make. If you are a person who does not like being questioned or second guessed, you will need to make some adjustments to your attitude in order to live with the new scrutiny in your life.

You may like what happens in the home to stay in the home. That kind of privacy is now a thing of the past. What you do and say may be spread through the neighborhood and through family members. That is part of being a blended family. Your actions are always on display, like a circus performer. You will not only be watched, you will be questioned on your competence, your love and your actions. That questioning will not always be done in love or with your best interest at heart.

The children will also need your love, especially with the changes that come with blending a family. Your biological children will need your love along with the new children in your life. You will also have to identify how to love each one in ways that they understand. You may be loving them in the way you think is ‘best’, yet if it is not in a way that they understand, your efforts may be wasted.

The whole blending process is made infinitely more complicated when you blend families from different cultures or religions. Mixing groups with large differences often leads to fireworks. Although you may think mixing them is no big deal, the children often view it very differently. They may view you as a ‘traitor’ or ‘selfish’ by not considering their backgrounds and needs. Although the Beatles proclaimed “All you need is love”, when it comes to blending families, you need a lot more than that.

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