When Carol and Mike got married, they were a match made in heaven. She had three girls with blond hair, the youngest in curls. He had three boys—four men living together, but they were all alone… “they knew that it was much more than a hunch; That this group must somehow form a family.” Yes, The Brady Bunch is the iconic standard of the blended family. While Marcia and Greg had their tiffs, the Bradys made bringing two families together look easy. The only problem is that blending families is rarely that smooth. All blended families experience roadblocks and bumps on their journey toward being one, big, happy family. More and more, stepfamilies are navigating those roadblocks with guidance from a family therapist and blended family counseling.
“You have to take things slowly. Just because you love someone doesn’t mean that you’re going to automatically love their children.
All relationships take time to grow and develop. Be willing to give everyone the time and space they need. It will come.”
Time and space are two ingredients for a blended family to flourish. Without a doubt, bringing two families together can be a challenge, but without a doubt, it is worth the effort. With every challenge, there is also opportunity. Children and parents alike often learn to love in new and deeper ways. They may build up their resiliency. They often learn more about who they are and what they need. No one has to walk through the challenge alone. Mental health professionals have helped many families overcome these difficulties and come together.
Your blended family may be just starting on its journey or you may have been working on harmony for a while. In either case, know that Thriveworks Birmingham offers therapy for blended families. We understand the process of building a family, and we are ready to help.
What Does a Blended Family Look Like?
There is no formula for what a blended or step family can look like. No list could contain the different shapes and sizes families can take, but here are some examples of blended families:
- Parents who are divorced and living in separate homes but sharing parenting duties of their children. No partners are involved in the children’s lives.
- A remarried or re-coupled parent whose new partner steps into a parenting role in their child’s life (thus, the term step family) where the new partner does not have their own children.
- Remarried or re-coupled parents who both have children from a previous relationship and both are stepping into parenting roles.
- A remarried or re-coupled parent whose new partners does not take on a parenting role the child (children).
In 1969, The Brady Bunch first aired, and the divorce rate for first-time marriages was 30 percent. Today, that rate is 40 percent, and it rises exponentially for second and third time marriages. There are many, many blended families. In fact, the US Census Bureau says that 1300 new blended families are formed each day, and half of the 60 million children ages 13 and under are living in a blended family. If you are experiencing the growing pains of blending a family, you are not alone. Many others understand the challenges that face both the children and the adults in a stepfamily.
Blended Families: Common Challenges for the Kids
When a child’s home life is changing, even if those changes are for the better, children often feel stressed. Often, children are required to undergo the most amount of changes, but they have the least ability to control the situation. They may be grieving a parent’s divorce, break-up, or death. They may have to adjust to one set of rules in one home and another set of rules in another home. The resulting frustration, loss, and grief may lead to emotional and behavioral problems.
When a parent’s new partner takes an active role in parenting or when they have children of their own, children can be caught in confusing and unclear roles. Their birth order may have been disturbed, and they may no longer be the baby or the boss. Children often wonder if liking their new stepparent is a betrayal to their other parent. If the parent’s new partner is taking an active role in parenting, what is that role? If not, what will the relationship between the child and the partner look like? Without clarity, children can have difficulty adjusting to the blended family.
Blended Families: Common Challenges for the Adults
When adults come together as a couple and as a family, they also face many challenges. They have the marriage or partnership to establish, but they also must set the course for the whole family. If one of the spouses or partners had not previously been a parent, then parenting is a set of social skills that needs to be learned. If each partner brings their own children to the family, then they will need to decide upon a parenting style and navigate differences with former partners/spouses. Any one of these issues can cause great tension, but often, multiple challenges are in play at the same time.
Scheduling Counseling for Blended Families at Thriveworks Birmingham
If you are blending two families together, consider reaching out to help from Thriveworks Birmingham. When you contact our office, your first appointment may be within 24 hours. We accept many different forms of insurance, and we offer weekend evening sessions. Let’s work together. Call today.