What is a blended family?
A blended family has many meanings and can be defined as a family where one adult becomes a stepparent to their new spouse's children. The term blended family also refers to a family of two now second-marriage adults who each have their children and are “blending” them into one new family. It involves the intricate dynamic of how the children get along as sudden, instant “siblings.” It may be in the same house or divided homes (halftime or weekends with other parent or parents.). It involves competition, acceptance, a worry of being replaced, and how the new parental couple navigates as a couple and with the children.
Benefits of stepparent and blended family counseling
When two families merge, each brings a set of norms and expectations to the newly formed family. If each brings children into the new family, roles need to be determined in advance to portray a unified position to the children.
Stepparent and blended family counseling help uncover each partner's thoughts and philosophy on parenting before merging the families.
There is a premarital therapy aspect of the blended family. The newly married couple must understand their roles and negotiate parenting rules, especially how it pertains to the children:
- Disciplinary actions such as grounding, taking away driving privileges, or withholding allowance should be determined in advance.
- Giving permissions based on ground rules either set by the biological parent or determined together as a new parent team.
The blended family is different and presents a unique challenge
- Children are conflicted over feelings of loyalty to the natural parent and attraction to the stepparent
- For younger children spending extended time with the natural parent, confusion of rules and behavior can create anger and anxiety.
- If a natural parent had died, and the surviving parent married again, feelings of loss and sadness are coupled with fears of a ‘replacement parent.’