The Brady Bunch showed America that family is about love and connection, not fitting into a mold. Mike and his three sons were “four men living all together yet they were all alone.” Carol was “bringing up three very lovely girls.” These two families came together—doubling the people, doubling the chaos, and doubling the love. In one iconic scene, Carol says to her son that the only steps in their home lead to the second floor. The message was clear: they all belonged. The Bradys were America’s first blended family, but they were not the last. Diana Ross, Will and Jada Smith, and Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth have followed in their footsteps, and the list could go on and on. The US Census Bureau estimates that approximately 1300 new blended families are forged every day. Many of these blended families know that anything good does not come easy. There is no magic potion to create a big, happy home, but there is help. Counseling for blended families has helped many make the transition from two homes to one.
“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.”
—Kelly LeFurgey, stepmom
When two families become one, it is important that relationships get off on the right foot. As stepmom, Kelly LeFurgey explains, relationships take time and space. Relationships cannot be forced or controlled. And yet, there are proactive things that both parents and children can do to help their families blend well. A skilled therapist may be able to guide that process as the family builds a unique, unified home.
If you are in the process of blending two families, know that you are not alone. Many other blended families are likely experiencing similar challenges. The therapists at Thriveworks Counseling in Westborough understand the challenges as well. We have worked with a number of blended families, helping them break the mold and build a beautiful life together.
Common Challenges for Blended Families
In 1969, when Carol and Mike said their vows, the divorce rate was at 30 percent for first marriages. Today, that rate has increased to 40 percent, and the rate for second or third-time marriages rises even more. After a divorce or the death of a spouse, many choose to seek out another relationship. Blended family are growing daily, and half of America’s children ages 13-and-under live in one. Blended families are often places where deep love and strong resiliency are forged, but like all good things, they do not come easily. Anything worth having takes time and effort and grit. Blended families have to overcome a lot of challenges, both the kids and the adults.
Common Challenges for the Children
When a kid’s live is changing, even in a positive direction, they often feel the stress of those adjustments. In a blended family, there is a lot of newness to which children must acclimatize. They may move homes or schools. They may have new siblings and a new birth order. They may experience a new parenting style. And during all these changes, children may be handling big feelings for the first time. They may be grieving the loss of a parent through a relocation or through death. They may be angry or confused at their new circumstances. It is difficult to process these feelings in a healthy way, and it is not usual for children to process them in an unhealthy way: by acting out.
Common Challenges for the Couple
Just as kids experience a lot of change, so do couples. When the adults are establishing the new partnership or their new marriage, they are also leading a family through the process of blending. The couple sets the tone for the whole family. They may be navigating issues in their own relationship, setting up expectations for their children, and working with ex-partners and ex-spouses. Any one of these is a big task, but many couples in blended families take them all on at the same time.
Tips for Becoming One
There are a number of strategies that counselors can teach families to help them function well together. The therapists at Thriveworks Counseling in Westborough offer personalized care to each family they help, but here are a few general tips for setting up a blended family for success.
- Be honest: Blended families are allowed to acknowledge that this process is difficult. They are allowed to have bad days as well as good days. Seeing the situation clearly is a big help in the blending process.
- Be proactive: When families set expectations sooner rather than later, they often set themselves up for success.
- Be empathetic: Each member of a blended family has unique challenges. Listen well. Promote understanding. Empathy is an important tool for blended families.
- Be specific about your needs: With so much happening in a blended family, encourage every member to speak up. Instead of waiting for someone to notice what they need, each person should be free to ask.
Therapy at Thriveworks Counseling in Westborough for Blended Families
When you call Thriveworks Westborough to schedule an appointment for blended family counseling, you may be meeting with a therapist the following day. We accept many different forms of insurance, and we offer evening and weekend sessions. Call today.