In The Brady Bunch, when Mike met Carol, they were the perfect match. Mike had three boys from a previous marriage. Carol had three girls. As the theme song explains, “they knew that it was much more than a hunch; That this group must somehow form a family.” The Bradys made it look easy. Everything aligned, and just like that, they were a family. Bobby would sometimes pull Cindy’s curls, and Greg and Marcia would compete to be the boss. However, whatever tension they had quickly resolved, and before long, they were one, big, happy family again. The Brady’s gave American a picture of what it was like to be a blended family, but most families experience significantly more challenges as they bring two families together. More and more, blended families are meeting those challenges by reaching out for help and going to counseling.
“Live one day at a time (or one moment if you have to).
Blend little by little and celebrate even the smallest breakthrough.”
—Dani Parker-Kimbrough, mom and stepmom
Bringing two families together has a number of challenges, but there are untold benefits as well. Within a blended family, both parents and the children have the opportunity to learn about deep and different kinds of love. They often build resiliency and grow personally. These benefits, however, do not come without making sacrifices and working hard. Many people also need outside help, particularly from a therapist. When blending a family, it is important to take one step at a time, but what is the right next step? Skilled therapists understand the process of making a home, and they can often guide two families on how to come together well.
Whether you are starting to blend your family or whether you have been working at it for some time, consider reaching out to Thriveworks Knoxville. We have worked with a number of step families. We know that the process is not as easy as the Brady Bunch made it seem, but we also know that it is possible to live as one, big, happy family.
What Is a Blended Family?
Sometimes called stepfamilies, there is no limited to the form a blended family can take. Here are only a few examples of blended families:
- Divorced parents with children. Often, the children live with one parent but visit the other. One or both parents may be dating.
- Remarried parents or re-coupled parents where the new partner steps into the role of step-parent without children of their own (hence, the terms stepmom, stepdad, stepsister, stepbrother, and step-family).
- Remarried or re-coupled parents where a new partner steps into the role of step-parent and also has children from a previous relationship.
- Remarried or re-coupled parents whose new partners do not step into a parenting role with their children.
When The Brady Bunch first aired in 1969, 30 percent of all first marriages ended in divorce. Today, 40 percent of all time-time marriages end in divorce, and the percentages rise for second and third-time marriages. It is no wonder that the US Census Bureau showed that 1300 new families are blended every day. Of the 60 million children under the age of 13 in the US, half are living with one biological partner and that parent’s partner. Many people are facing similar challenges, and those challenges are unique from the couple’s perspective and from the children’s perspective.
Challenges for Children in a Blended Family
Changes in their home can be stressful for children. Many times, children experience the most changes while they are able to exert the least amount of control. They may have to deal with their parent’s divorce or break-up. They may be navigating different rules in different homes. They often experience behavioral and emotional problems as they are trying to process grief, frustration, and loss.
Interacting with a new parent or new sibling can also be confusing. Children may have to navigate being in a different birth order (no long the oldest or the baby). Children may also not know what role the new parent will play in their lives. Is it ok to like their new stepparent or is that betraying the parent they do not live with? Is this new adult taking on a parenting role or are they taking a less hands-on role? Without clarity and structure, children may have difficulty within a new stepfamily.
Challenges for Couples Who Are Blending a Family
Just as children have many difficulties to navigate, so do adult. Not only are they working on their own marriage or partnership, but adults are also leading their families through the transition as well. If one partner has never been a parent before, they will be learning a whole new set of social skills and forging new expectations. If both partners have children, they may have to navigate different parenting styles between themselves and between their former spouses and/or partners. There are many roadblocks that can trip a family as they are blending these differences.
Scheduling Therapy for Blended Families at Thriveworks Knoxville
As you read about blended families, you may have recognized something that is happening in your own home. If so, you are not alone. These are common challenges, but they are also common opportunities. Many people work with a therapist to work through the challenge and experience the deep love that can be cultivated in a blended family. If you are ready to meet with a mental health professional, the therapists at Thriveworks Knoxville are ready to meet with you. When you contact our office, your first appointment may be within 24 hours. We offer evening and weekend sessions, and many forms of insurance are accepted. Call today.