When Mike and Carol Brady got married, there was just one problem: Greg, Peter, and Bobby (Mike’s sons) were missing their dog, Tiger. If you live in a blended family, you understand. When two families come together, everyone is included. The Brady Bunch, in its six seasons on television, became the icon for American blended families. They had their share of problems, but they also built a loving family where everyone felt included—even the dog… “they knew that it was much more than a hunch; That this group must somehow form a family. That’s the way we all became the Brady bunch.” Every blended families will face its share of challenges, even the Bradys. Marcia and Greg had their rivalry to be the oldest, and Bobby and Cindy competed to be the family’s baby. There are common issues that arise in blended families, but there are also many resources and supports for them as they transition two families into one. Many choose to go to counseling for blended families for the guidance they need to establish one, big, happy family.
“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.”
Allowing relationships to grow and develop naturally can be one of the biggest hurdles and one of the biggest perks of having a blended family. With two families becoming one, the chaos and the stress may be doubled, but the love and the acceptance may also be doubled. Resiliency and deep connections often grow in blended families, and adults and kids alike often learn about who they are and establish their unique identity. Skilled therapists can often help guide the blending process, navigating challenges and turning them into opportunities for family members to connect on a deeper level.
If your family is blended, know that the therapists at Thriveworks Sterling have worked with many families who are first starting out on their journey and those that are farther along the road. We know that bringing two families together into one home takes time and effort, but we also know that the hard work usually brings untold benefits.
What Can a Family Look Like?
When two families blend into one, there is no mold and there is no formula. This is another challenge and benefit to living in a blended family. They can be any shape or size, and when done well, this means blended families can adjust so that everyone’s needs are met and everyone feels included. While no list could ever contain all the ways that a blended family can be set up, here are a few examples:
- Divorced or separated parents who have their own homes, but they are actively parenting their children together. No dating partners or spouses are involved in the children’s lives.
- A re-coupled parent who lives with a new partner, and that partner is stepping into a new role as parent (hence the term step-parent, child, family, et cetera) even though they do not have children from a previous relationship.
- Remarried or widowed parents who both have a child from their previous marriage (like the Bradys) and are both taking on parent roles.
- A remarried parent whose new spouse does not step into a parenting role with the child (children) but carves out a mentoring relationship.
The Brady Bunch’s first episode aired in 1969 and the divorce rate for first marriages around approximately 30 percent. That rate has risen to 40 percent today, and many people chose to remarry or re-couple. That means more and more blended families are being formed. The US Census Bureau estimates their numbers are growing by 1300 every day. If you are in a blended family and experiencing challenges, know that you are not alone. Certain challenges are common in blended families, challenges that affect both adults and children.
Common Challenges for the Children
Even beneficial changes in a child’s life can feel overwhelming and unnerving to them. A few of the challenges that children face are difficult emotions and changing relationships. When families are blending, children are often grieving a loss. That loss may be their parents’ divorce or break-up. That loss may be a parent’s death. Children may also be navigating how to relate to a new parent or siblings. When these roles are unclear or initially forming, children may feel confused.
Common Challenges for the Couple
Adults in a blended family are not just establishing their new marriage or relationship, they are also establishing a new family. They may need to forge their unique parenting style, or if one partner has never parented previously, then they will need to learn new social-emotional, parenting skills. They may also be navigating differences with ex-partners and/or spouses. Any one of these challenges is a lot, but couples in blended families often face them all at the same time.
Counseling for Blended Families at Thriveworks Loudoun County
If you are working to blend a family, help is available. Thriveworks Sterling offers therapy for blended families and we have appointments available. When you contact our office, your first appointment may be within 24 hours. We accept many different insurance plans, and we offer evening and weekend sessions. Let’s get started.