Relationships in a Blended Family look different for many families. The relationships can resemble the happy-go-lucky “Brady Bunch.” Or they mirror the struggling “Yours, Mine and Ours” family. This type of situation can also be anything and everything between.
Some Families get along fine from the beginning. Others find themselves embroiled in conflict. Living as a blended family presents a unique set of challenges.
When the members of your family always seem to be in conflict with one another, life can feel overwhelming. It can seem impossible that yours will ever truly be the family you want it to be.
Fortunately, newly integrated families can often find a path to mutual respect and happiness. Blended family counseling from a professional therapist can play a vital role in getting them there.
The Unique Struggles of Blended Families
Conflicts can arise in every family. The individual personalities of the children and the parents can clash.
Arguments can turn into fights. Arguments can have any number of origins, including scheduling, parenting, and financial issues.
In every family, parents can have different ideas on how to raise their children. Discipline, household chores, and allowances are all common areas for parents to disagree. When two different families combine, these differences are magnified to a higher level.
Parents in a merged family can struggle when creating a parenting strategy. They must consider any differences their “new” family has. In the case of blended families, there may be conflicts with what the ex-partners are doing.
Further, parents in an integrated family have to balance. Time and energy have to be spread among many people and activities. This includes time with their partner with their work schedule and time with their kids. Sometimes this includes time with their ex-partner.
Balancing these obligations can put a strain on relationships. Parents must consider all the members of their family.
But blended family problems are not limited to the parents. Children can struggle as much as the parents can. They may feel abandoned by their biological parent.
Children may have a hard time adjusting to a new mother or father-figure in their lives. This is especially true if they don’t want that change.
According to the American Psychological Association, if the parents are in conflict during a divorce, resentment and other issues may arise with the children.
The eldest sibling may lose their status in a blended family. This problem worsens if the child is a few years younger than the new parent.
Some children may not know how to fit into the dynamics of the new family. Young adults may be starting off on their own journey and do not want to be part of the intermixed family.
And relocating the family can add even more frustrations:
- Who gets which rooms and who rooms with whom?
- What school system is the best to use?
- Should you pull children out of high school a year from graduating?
- Leaving the home and friends they grew up with can be scary for children
The good news is that your blended family isn’t alone. In the United States today, there are fewer families with parents from one marriage. Pew Research reports that integrated families are on the rise. The number of “traditional” family households is in decline.
More than 50% of families in the United States are remarried families. (source: StepFamily.org)
Many families out there have successfully blended two households together. Some families may be able to do it on their own. But, others need and benefit from blended-family counseling.
Even if your issues aren’t serious, newly combined family appointments can help. Meeting with a trained therapist can help your family’s bond grow much stronger.
You Are Not Failing
Having problems does not mean you are failing as a family. Every family—no matter its size or situation—has its problems. That’s life.
What’s more, there is no such thing as “the perfect family.” Family stability depends on the environment. It does not depend on whether you’re a blended family or a first-marriage family. (source American Psychological Association)
Wanting to work out your issues in combined family counseling is one step in the right direction. We can help you work toward achieving your goals of balance and harmony within your family.
You can strengthen (or mend) your bonds by seeing a therapist. They can help you discover why your family members are the way they are.
You may also find that your issues aren’t as terrible as they seem.
How Blended Family Counseling Works
During your appointment, your Family will receive personalized attention from your therapist. They understand that your family presents its own unique challenges and issues.
The therapist’s goal is to help you work through your particular problems as a family. Working together is vital to success.
The members of your family will express themselves in a safe environment. Parents will learn communication skills to improve their relationships.
Everyone will get the chance to share their own thoughts and feelings. As you all work through your own issues, you will become closer as a family.
You’ll have the opportunity to learn what everyone feels and thinks. The empathy that results will help you navigate through any other issues that may come up in the future.
Your therapist may walk you through role-playing scenarios. These sessions let you discuss difficult issues in a safe environment. Role-playing helps prevent crossing any lines or making anyone uncomfortable.
Role-playing gives you the opportunity to experiment with new parenting and communication strategies. But you do not have to worry about the consequences.
Putting yourself in neutral territory gives you a new perspective. It becomes easier to see other options and alternatives. It may feel silly at first to “pretend” but this activity can work wonders.
The therapist also may have you list all the people in your family and their individual “roles.” This forms a complete picture of who your family is.
Understanding the roles that everyone is juggling is important. You—and the therapist—can better understand the stress each person is dealing with.
Frequent Concerns with Blended Family Counseling
Although blended family counseling may sound appealing, there are common concerns:
“No one can really understand my family’s issues”
No one may completely understand your unique problems. However, your therapist will empathize and offer expertise and professional help.
Your therapist is trained to help you deal with various issues. They have extensive education and years of experience. You don’t have to go through this alone.
“Our issues are too complicated”
Your situation may feel so overwhelming that you believe there is no hope. Solving problems comes from patience and hard work.
You must be committed to your counseling sessions. Your therapist will be committed to helping your family. Counseling can give you guidelines to follow through your journey.
“Counseling is too expensive”
Blended families come with their own unique expenses. Relocation, child-support, and various other expenses are just a few examples. These can make it difficult for some families to make ends meet.
It is best to think of family counseling as an investment. Counseling will help your family grow stronger over time.
A Few Tips for Blended Family Counseling
- Put respect first, love second. You cannot expect love to develop when there is no respect. Respect is required to develop meaningful relationships.
- Understand that everyone in your family is unique and have their own needs and wants. They have their own opinions of how things should be done. Respect their individuality and acknowledge their ideas. There is no way to make every single person happy all the time. Finding a compromise is essential to a great family environment.
- Don’t push your family to blend. Let this happen at its own pace so that you don’t overwhelm everyone. Bonds that develop naturally are stronger and will last longer than forced bonds.
- Encourage everyone to create new bonds, but do not sacrifice the bonds that are already in place. Don’t force family members to do everything together. Offer the option to take part in activities, though. This can apply to sports, cooking, watching television, etc.
- Communicate as much as possible. Be open with all members of your family. Don’t keep things bottled up. Encourage each other to communicate calmly and openly. You cannot resolve issues by never addressing them. Set aside some time and a safe space to discuss any issues that may arise.
- Consider moving into a new home. An APA Help Center article suggests that moving into a new home together helps to create a sense of unity.
- Let your step-children set the pace for bonding. It’s important for them to feel safe and secure with you before you try to bond with them. Don’t smother them with affection right away. They should see you as a friend before an enforcer.