BLENDED FAMILY COUNSELING
“Stepfamily blending happens quickly.”
“A blended family is the same as a first marriage family.”
“Children whose parents divorce and remarry are damaged permanently.”
“Children need to withdraw from their non-residential parent to bond with the stepparent.”
“Remarriages that follow a death go more smoothly than those that occur after a divorce.”
“The stepparent will try to ‘replace’ the biological parent.”
“Everything will fall into place. Let’s just wait and see how it goes.”
What do these comments have in common? They’re all societal myths about stepfamilies and blended families. They’re only a few of many myths identified by Joseph Gold, in his recent book, Stepping In, Stepping Out: Creating Stepfamily Rhythm. A myth is defined as a widely held but false belief or idea.
When a remarriage creates a stepfamily or a blended family, that couple takes on a unique set of challenges. To clarify the terminology, a stepfamily is formed when one of the spouses has a child or children from a previous marriage or committed relationship. A blended family refers to one in which both spouses have children from a previous marriage. For simplicity, both types will be referred to as blended families throughout this page. A blended family faces the additional complication that some children might live in the home while other children visit, but live with the other biological parent.
The creation of either of these types of families involves a complicated and complex transition. So many changes are taking place, and they’re all happening at the same time.
THE FASTEST-GROWING FAMILY SYSTEM IN THE UNITED STATES TODAY
- It is predicted that by 2020, the blended family unit will be the most common family unit in America.
- About 85% of men and 75% of women remarry within three years following a divorce.
- Approximately 65% of those remarriages will involve children from a previous marriage.
- The divorce rate for remarried couples is high – 67% for second marriages and 73% for third marriages. These high divorce rates are frequently related to the heightened stress of blending families.
These statistics indicate that it is essential for remarrying couples to take careful consideration and planning to minimize the pitfalls ahead.
HOW CAN BLENDED FAMILY COUNSELING HELP YOU AVOID THESE PITFALLS?
First of all, blended family counseling can help you identify the particular myths you might be adopting as truth. These myths need to be recognized and reconstructed so that families don’t get blindsided when their expectations are unrealistic and fail to materialize. Arm yourself with the knowledge and skills to reconstruct those myths into a more realistic viewpoint. There is no cookie-cutter approach. Your particular challenges are based on the unique constellation of individuals affected by your remarriage.
The following issues are a sample of the many issues a blended family must resolve for lasting success:
- Discipline problems, especially when partners adopt different parenting styles
- Conflicts over stepparent authority and responsibilities
- Custody, visitation, and financial support as set forth in legal proceedings in previous marriages
- Disputes over money, privacy, vacations, boundaries, rituals, holidays, and extended family members.
- Excessive guilt related to prior divorce or remarriage
- Feelings of being overwhelmed, confused, frustrated, discouraged, or depressed
- Self-doubt about ability to handle family problems
- Conflict with ex-spouses.
- Intense loyalty conflicts for the children
- Accusations of “favoritism” and/or disrespectful behaviors
- Stepsibling relationship problems
- Relationship between stepparent and biological parent
- Legal issues related to changes in child custody
- Having a mutual child and its effect on family cohesion.
- Distinguishing between marital and stepparenting problems
Your new family will encounter some or all of these issues and others that are not listed, but every stepfamily or blended family must consider four important issues.
1. The Ages of the Children. 3. Boundaries and Loyalties
2. Discipline 4. Legal Issues
Just thinking about all the complications that may arise can be exhausting. I encourage you to develop a flexible plan to guide you in building a happy and loving family in which everyone feels respected and appreciated. Blended family counseling can help you anticipate problems develop a workable plan.
GIVE YOUR NEW FAMILY EVERY CHANCE FOR SUCCESS
I can offer you a safe, non-judgmental space to explore your particular challenges with professional guidance. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please visit my contact page here. If you still have questions or reservations, I’m happy to schedule a free 15-minute phone consult or, if you prefer, you may send your questions to me via e-mail.