Mike and Carol built a family that was different but where everyone was accepted and loved. They showed American that family does not have to fit the mold to be a great place. Mike had Greg, Peter, and Bobby. Carol had Marcia, Jan, and Cindy. Together, they were The Brady Bunch, America’s iconic blended family. They had their fair share of challenges. Cindy and Bobby may have competed to be the baby of the family, and Marcia and Greg battled to be the boss. However, they found a way to make it work. Of course, the Bradys were on TV so the show’s producers could orchestrate a happy ending to any problem within 30 minutes. There are no such magic formulas for blended families in real life, but there are resources. More and more, blended families are working with a counselor as the two families become one.
“One of the most important lessons our children have learned from our divorces is that some things in life can come to an end, but that’s ok because something new is manifested. In our case, it’s a blended family that has respect, love, trust, authenticity and a sense of fun.”
—Jennifer Kessler, mom and stepmom
In every problem, there is an opportunity. In every ending, there is a new beginning. In every loss, there is gain. These are truths that blended families often understand well. Blended families may experience double the people, double the struggle, double the chaos. However, they also may experience double the love, double the resiliency, and double the connection. And no blended family is alone in the journey. Skilled counselors can often guide families through the roadblock and toward a happy home.
The counselors at Thriveworks Newport News have worked with a number of blended families. We understand that being one, big, happy family takes a lot of work, but we also know it is worth the effort.
Blending Two Families
When to families become one, some call this a step family. Others call it a blended family. Whatever term is used, the process is the same, but there is no mold. Blended families bring two families together as one, but there is no formula. Each is unique and has its own shape and size. Blended families can be…
- A widowed parent who is dating a divorcee who has children. The new partner is taking an active role in the child’s life.
- Divorced parents who have separate home and equally share parenting responsibilities. They may be dating again or even remarried, but their new partner/spouse is not involved in the children’s lives.
- Remarried parents who both have children and are both actively parenting all the children.
- A re-coupled parent whose new partner does not have children. The new partner is taking an active role in the children’s lives.
As a blended family comes together, there will be barriers—regardless of what form they take. These roadblocks will be different from the kids’ perspective and from the adult’s perspective.
Kids in Blended Families
Any changes in a child’s life can cause stress—even beneficial changes. Kids in blended families have a lot of changes to get used to. They may have to change schools or homes. They may have new siblings and a new birth order. The house rules and parenting styles may have changes as well. All the while, they may be feeling big emotions for the first time in their lives: grief, frustrations, anger, confusion, and more. As children are learning what to do with these big emotions, they may act-out in ways they never have previously.
Couples in Blended Families
Couples are not only working on a new relationship or a new marriage, they are also working on a new family. The adults in a blended family set the tone and the expectations for everyone else. They have a lot on their shoulders. Couples need to decide what parenting roles and style they will adopt. They may need to set up boundaries or expectations with each others’ ex’s. They may need to learn parenting skills if they have never been a parent before. Couples also have to navigate in-laws and extended families.
Like most things in life, anything worth doing takes work. Blended families may face a lot of challenges, but the potential benefits are vast. Here are a few tips for blending a family:
- Acknowledge the Difficulty: If things are not running smoothly, it is okay to acknowledge the hard. Do not pretend that everything is fine. Blending a family is hard work, and it is okay to say so.
- Be Proactive: Set routines and expectations as soon as possible. Make a plan. Initiate a difficult conversation. Do not let problems grow, but tackle them before they can cause more trouble.
- Cultivate Understanding: One of the most powerful tools a blended family has is empathy. Everyone is adjusting to changes. Everyone is grieving losses. Making understanding and listening the family’s top priority.
Counseling at Thriveworks Newport News for Blended Families
If your family is in the process of blending, consider reaching out for help. Thriveworks Newport News offers therapy for blended families, and we have appointments available. When you contact our office, your first appointment may be within 24 hours. We offer evening and weekend sessions, and we accept many different forms of insurance. Let’s navigate life’s challenges together. Call today.