Category

Uncategorized

Uncategorized

Why Are Blended Families Increasing?

Are Blended Families Increasing

Are families changing? Are blended families increasing? We don’t eat, sleep, or work in the same way that we did a hundred years ago (or even a few decades ago!), so it is only natural that the family structure will change over time. The idea of the nuclear family has evolved to become something more diverse, inclusive, and variable.

Blended families are more common than ever— it is estimated the 1 in 3 Americans is part of a blended family. This indicates a steady rise in the number of stepfamilies in society. But why are blended families really increasing?

What are the statistics of blended families?

Data from the 2002 Current Population Survey (CPS) shows that the traditional breadwinner-homemaker family represented only 7% of all U.S. households. This means that the conventional roles of stay-at-home mothers and sole-breadwinner fathers are largely a thing of the past. Women are no longer forced to stay in unhappy marriages due to financial dependence on their husbands, and it is estimated that one out of two first marriages ends in divorce. More people are opting to cohabitate before or instead of marriage, and many of these couples also have children. Over 75% of divorced individuals remarry, leading to more blended families.

Read More: What are Blended Families?

Are blended families the new norm?

It is estimated that 2,100 new stepfamilies are formed every day in the U.S., and that 42% of Americans have at least one immediate step-relative.

Statistics show that second or subsequent marriages have higher success rates than first marriages. It is also true that blended families generally have more challenges to overcome. And families that are more successful in overcoming the initial disagreements are more likely to survive.

In couples with children, a common cause for divorce is disagreements over childcare or parenting. In this case, remarriages into a blended family provide more control over parenting. Younger children are able to adjust to blended families more quickly and easily than older, more mature children. Partners may also be fleeing abusive or negligent behavior.

Blended families are on the rise due to the increasing divorce and separation rates, as well as the declining importance of marriage. Blended families can provide a haven of companionship, stability, and a second chance at love for many individuals.

No Comments
Uncategorized

Estate Planning for Your Blended Family

Estate Planning for Your Blended Family

There comes a day where you may be unable to make decisions for yourself, and while the thought of it is something you would rather avoid. Unfortunately, death is something that affects every person and every family at some point. With this in mind, it is important for parents to always realise the critical role that proper estate planning plays. Estate planning can help to ensure your spouse is looked after when you are gone and ensure your kids (and even step-kids) are properly cared for, too.

Estate planning among any family is already a complex process to begin with. In a blended family, this particular factor can become even more complicated. How to write a will with step-children involved is a common question asked by parents who are part of a blended family. What are the proper steps to take and how should estate planning should work when you have a blended family?

STEP 1: Listing Family Members That Need To Be Named In The Will

Before you start setting up your estate plan, it is a good idea to first consider the individuals who will be named in your will. There are a number of factors to consider here. It is best to write these down and compile a list of names. Adding additional details, such as what role each name plays in your will can also be helpful.

You will also need to designate someone who will serve as an agent should you be unable to make decisions for yourself due, for example, to mental incapacity. In some countries, this can also be referred to as a Lasting Power of Attorney. This agent will also be responsible for implementing your will and estate plan at the time of your death, in this case also taking the role of the will Executor. Take some time and do research on the options for agents to find one that you feel you can trust.

In addition to an agent, you have to list the names of family members who will receive possessions and/or assets in the event of your passing. This will generally include your current spouse, as well as children.

You can also decide to look at options to include any step-children in your will. If you have a step-child, then your family is generally considered a “blended family”. In these scenarios, your will is likely to include additional names, apart from your biological children and your spouse.

STEP 2: Determine the Division of Assets, Amounts, And Possessions

Once you know who will be included in your will, it is time to take inventory of your current assets and possessions. When you pass away, all your belongings will be divided among the individuals in your will. It is up to you to decide how the division should work – you are responsible for stipulating what every name on that list will receive.

When it comes to estate planning, it is a good idea to first determine your wishes. How much money do you wish to leave your spouse in the case of your death? In terms of monetary value, many people start with a goal “sum.” This allows them to plan for the future. This could include setting up a savings plan or taking out a life insurance policy.

Assets that you already own need to be stipulated in the will. Make a full list of your current possessions. This could include items such as cars, houses, jewellery, heirlooms and more. When you have a full list available, it is easier to determine which items would be best suited for specific names on your list.

During this process, you can consider more than your spouse and biological children. Many people also include their step-children in the will. This means physical and monetary assets can be divided in such a way to ensure stepchildren are also taken care of in the event of your death.

Estate Planning Techniques for Blended Families

There are a number of trusts that can be utilized to assist with the estate planning process among blended families. Understanding the different options that are available can help you find one that suits your needs most efficiently.

Among the different techniques that exist, a marital trust still remains the most popular option. This provides more peace of mind to you and ensures everyone will be taken care of appropriately. In the case of your death, assets you own will be made available to your spouse as long as they are alive at the time.

Residual funds can also be addressed in a marital trust. The residual funds will only be distributed in the case of the spouse’s death. In such a case, the funds that still remain from the trust are divided between the designated beneficiaries – which can include your biological children. As well as any stepchildren that were part of your family.

Some people opt for an outright ownership technique, but there are some risks involved. While a popular approach for those who prefer not to work with a trust, you do not have full control over how funds and assets will be used. In this particular case, full ownership of all your assets and possessions are carried over to your spouse upon death. You do not have control over how the assets are distributed once your spouse claims ownership. This can still provide a good option for blended families. As the spouse may take the best interest of both your stepchildren and your biological children in mind.

For those who want to divide all assets at the time of death, a Family Trust may be the more appropriate option. In this case, you dedicate specific assets to each person named in your will. In this scenario, your spouse does not get full ownership of everything upon death. There will also not be a single trust that your spouse controls up to their time of death. Instead, multiple “pools” are used within the trust, each dedicated to a specific person named in your will.

Understanding Home Ownership in Estate Planning

Homeownership can help to ensure your spouse continues to have a place to stay should you pass away, but there are a few things to understand in these scenarios too. You would need to consider the type of marriage you have entered into, as well as the method used for buying the house.

Joint With Rights of Survivorship is a common structure used when a couple buys a house. In such a scenario, ownership of the house is transferred in full to your spouse upon your death. This ensures your spouse can continue to live in and own the home.

Should you have bought the house in such a way that you are the only one listed as the owner, then things can be a bit more complicated. Without taking appropriate action, the house may not be available to your spouse to stay in following your death.

It is possible to change the ownership at any time. You can choose to change the ownership to a Joint With Rights Of Survivorship, which can offer you more peace of mind.

Communicating About Estate Planning in a Blended Family

Death comes at unexpected times, which is why communicating about events in such a scenario is important. Unfortunately, many people fail to realize the importance of open communication about this topic with their families. Among blended families, communication becomes critical to ensure every person knows what will happen on your passing. And to provide them with certainty that they are important to you.

Be sure to discuss your decisions around estate planning with your spouse and (perhaps older) children, and why not with your step-children as well? Including everyone in the discussion is important. As you do not want to end up hurting their feelings or leading to unexpected surprises once your will is being read to your family.

When your family knows what to expect, as well as what would be expected of them, then things will usually be done without as many obstacles. The transition of any assets or possessions you leave behind will happen smoothly. As the family members already know what will be allotted to them.

Considering the Help of an Agent

Estate planning is definitely a complicated topic and becomes even more so among blended families. With this in mind, there are times when speaking to a professional with experience in the development of wills and estate plans can be helpful.

When you decide to obtain help from a professional, be sure to do some research. Find out which agents in your area are professional and have the appropriate qualifications. The individual should be highly experienced in multiple aspects of the law – as a will is a legal matter. Additionally, the professional should also have experience in financial subjects. Planning a will takes skills from multiple areas. To ensure assets and possessions are appropriately divided among those who are named in your will.

An interview with each potential agent in your area is a good idea, too. Ask about the pricing for their consultations, seek testimonials from others. And don’t be afraid to see proof of their qualifications.

Conclusion

A will and estate planning are important parts of life, not to mention end of life. These documents help to ensure your assets are divided in the way you see fit the day you are no longer with your family. Among blended families, understanding how to develop an estate plan can be difficult. Estate planning with stepchildren requires a more complex will than the standard options. But with the right advice and strategy from the start. You can ensure the overall efficacy should something happen to you.

No Comments
Living together Uncategorized

How to Best Support Your Child After Re-Marriage

Support Your Child After Re-Marriage

A divorce and a subsequent re-marriage isn’t just a stressful transition for you but also for your child. At a point in life, when you need utmost support and consideration from your loved ones, you need to be able to give the same to your child as well. This is especially true if you have a young child upset about your new husband/wife.

It is not easy for kids to become comfortable with a new person in their lives, especially a person who is going to have a more authoritative role in their lives going forward. Your last partner was their father or mother for a long time, and shifting that focus to a new person can be strange, uncomfortable, and stressful. Remember, you might be immensely joyful at the prospect of a new beginning of your life, but your child might not be ready for this new adjustment.

If you are constantly telling yourself and your loved ones ‘my child doesn’t want me to re-marry’, you must give this more thought. Where is there reluctance stemming from? How could you make your child more comfortable in the new situation? Here are some of the most important considerations you must keep in mind for the happiness and comfort of your child.

 

Be honest with your child

Having a child upset about your new husband/wife can be very sad and unsettling. However, remember that their reluctance to accept your new partner is not something they are doing out of spite. Things have been utterly confusing and unclear to them, and it is up to you to change that.

  • Keep age appropriateness in mind.
  • Be honest and have a discussion with them about what’s going on in their family.
  • Reassure them that it wasn’t their fault.
  • Explain to them if your ex-partner is going to be in the picture now or not.
  • Talk to them about how they feel about your new partner.
  • Encourage them to tell you what they like and don’t like about your new partner.

Keeping these things hidden from them will only backfire in the long run. They might hear something from an aunt in your family or from someone else’s kid at their school. Learning about your family’s business from someone else can severely undermine your child’s sense of security and make them feel as if you are not their best companion anymore.

To avoid all of this, be very honest about why your marriage failed and do not bad mouth your ex-partner. This is especially important if your ex-partner is going to be actively bringing up your child even after re-marriage. Other than this, be prepared to answer questions such as –

  • Where will I live now?
  • Can I still visit Mom/Dad?
  • Can I still do my favorite things?
  • Will I move someplace else?
  • Can I still keep my room?
  • Where will Mom/Dad live?
  • Can I still meet my best friend?
  • Will you send me to a new school?
  • Will we celebrate Christmas?
  • Will my new Mom/Dad scold me for this?

 

Reassure them that you are still their rock

Upon hearing that one of their parents will not be living in the same house as them anymore, children tend to blame themselves for the unrest. Make sure that you let them know that your divorce was not their mistake. Accept your own mistakes as well and help them understand that both their parents still love and care for them.

It is also common for children to talk about how their parents yell at each other or vividly remember the night one of their parents left the house without saying goodbye to them. Protect your child from such negativity and ensure that they do not blame themselves for the circumstances. If your ex-partner is not going to be in the picture anymore, help your child understand that the reason of re-marriage that has nothing to do with them.

 

Give your child time to adjust

There are numerous things your child is trying to get adjusted to.

  • Your re-marriage is solid proof for your child that his or her parents are never going to get back together.
  • If you have been divorced for a long time, your child might become insecure about sharing you with a new person.
  • Your child might think that you are leaving them for a new person and that they do not belong with either of their parents anymore.
  • He or she might believe that learning to love your new partner is some form of disrespect to their own parent.
  • Your child might begin comparing your ex-partner and new partner by excessively focusing on your new partner’s faults.

Parents often push their children too hard to accept a new person in their life. Rather than forcing them to do so, give your child time to address their concerns and help them do away with their insecurities. Do not force them to call your new partner ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’. Do not force them to spend some time with your new partner. Let them set their own pace and allow their relationship with your new partner to grow rather than forcing it.

 

Be there for your child first and foremost

Things are changing around your child rapidly, and you must ensure that you are constantly there for your child. Answer their questions honestly, do not fight with your ex-partner in front of them, and ease your kid to your new partner slowly. Let them spend time with each other on their own accord and do not push their relationship. Be patient with your child and ask your new partner for their patience and understanding. Lastly, if your child is still becoming violently opposed to your re-marriage, seek professional help.

No Comments
Uncategorized

What are Blended Families?

Blended Families

A blended family is easily defined as two separate families becoming one via a second (or third) marriage. Blended families typically include step-parents and most often stepchildren, and don’t forget about step-grandparents and all the members of the extended families.

Blended families are sometimes referred to as reconstituted families or complex families. Newly blended families also come with their own unique set of challenges and benefits.

The Challenges Blended Families Often Face

When two separate families come together to live under one roof, the bonding doesn’t always happen right away. In fact, it can take up to two years (and sometimes even a little more) for blended families to adjust to their “new” family, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). So don’t be so quickly disheartened if your families are not blending perfectly right from the start!

Here are the most common challenges that newly blended families face:

Relationship Dynamics and Disciplinary Roles

When two separate families become one, a lot of different things are coming together—especially the relationship dynamics and disciplinary roles.

In some cases, an individual enters into a blended family without having any children of their own. Now, this individual who was once a fun, non-authoritative significant other, must step into the role of “stepparent.” This new role can become complicated, especially for a first-time parent.

The challenge still remains when both sides have children of their own. Consider that children of all ages may also struggle with grief over the loss of their previous family, whether the cause was a divorce or the death of a parent.

It takes time to figure out where everyone stands within this new family dynamic. Mutual respect and trust must be given and earned among everyone—and the appropriate roles must be assigned and acknowledged.

Financial Responsibilities

In some cases, entering into a blended family provides financial relief. In other cases, finances may be stretched a bit thin due to having to provide for more children plus paying a mortgage on a bigger home that can accommodate everyone.

Each financial situation is unique, especially since you’ll also have to figure out how money and assets will be divided among your new family in the event that something unfortunate happens.

Sibling Rivalry

Siblings already compete for attention in a nuclear family. The competition tends to become a bit more inflamed among step-siblings who may or may not feel comfortable around each other just yet.

With a blended family, you can have an only child that isn’t used to having to sharing the attention with another sibling. Or, in other cases, the children aren’t used to sharing their parent. Additionally, step-siblings are often strangers rather than siblings throughout the adjustment period, which can cause a rift between the step-parents and the biological parents, too.

Aside from allowing the kids to adjust on their own, all the parents should lay fair down ground rules for everyone to follow, including how the kids will be disciplined.

Feeling Like a Real Family

Bear in mind a considerable adjustment period for blended families sharing a home. More often than not, it ends up feeling like you’re two separate families bunking together and not like real family. Allow this to be the case, and don’t try to push too hard for things to blend perfectly and quickly.

Strong bonds can’t be forced overnight, especially if the step-siblings aren’t comfortable around each other or around their new step-parent just yet. Allow time and patience to let you find ways to transition into your new family dynamic.

The Benefits of Being A Part of a Blended Family

Of course, just because there are a number of obstacles to overcome with your newly blended family, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. There are also tons of benefits that come with this new family dynamic.

Here are some of the greatest advantages to being a part of a blended family:

Another Perspective on Parental Guidance

Arguably the most important aspect of having a blended family is that the children involved will get both a mother and father figure. This is especially critical if one or more of the biological parents are deceased or mostly absent from their child’s life.

Even if all the biological parents are alive and well, there’s a still an advantage there. Having an extra parent in the mix offers a new perspective on certain life situations, and that wisdom and experience can be passed down, helping to solve complex issues.

More Role Models

Not all step-siblings will be rivals, and for only children, the addition of a new sibling can be a very positive thing. Our older siblings tend to become our role models, our confidants, our oldest friends in life, and much more.

They help us learn about relationships and ourselves—plus, they’re like having a built-in buddy system (most of the time!)

A Bigger Support System

Becoming a blended family means having more people in your life who love and care for you—after the adjustment period, that is. This creates a much bigger support system for each individual in the family as bonds grow stronger.

Life is difficult and messy. Having more people to lean on when things go wrong, to celebrate achievements and milestones, to teach each other new things, and to be there for everything life throws at you is priceless.

Despite its challenges and benefits, a blended family at the end of the day is just that—a family. Hence, No family is ever perfect, but we’re all lucky if we get to be a part of one, blended or not.

No Comments
Uncategorized

Can blended families be happy?

Can blended families be happy?

There are many things that no one ever tells you about blended families, such as the conflicts and the misunderstandings, as well as the constant dedication it takes. While the traditional family dynamics have a wide variety of literature to their name, you might not find a lot of guidance on blended families. You do not know if you are going in the right direction or creating a bigger mess. As such, can blended families be truly happy?

The Challenges

Plain and simple, blended families are tougher to manage than traditional families. They require more effort and dedication from both partners as well as sacrifices and compromises. While managing any family is challenging, with blended families, the responsibility just increases. It becomes harder to adjust, to give in when needed, and stand strong when required.

Children

According to studies, 66% of marriages with children from previous relationships end.[1] If you or your partner have children, adjusting can be tricky for them. According to Jeanne Segal (Ph.D.) and Lawrence Robinson, children who face a lot of changes at once can have a very difficult time adjusting.[2] This can lead to rebellion, which causes conflicts and strains in the family. As the parent, you will have to ensure a smooth and gradual transition of your children and your partner or even your partner’s children.

Relationship

With blended families, couples have less time to devote to their romantic relationship. Tempers will run high, and patience very low. Couples often have a hard time adjusting to the new roles expected of them.[3] Parenting, especially, becomes a sensitive topic. Even if you love your partner’s children like your own, there often remains a boundary that you cannot cross, where you cannot be so openly frank or critical of your partner’s choices.

Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry takes on new meaning in a blended family. Step-siblings will often compete for love and attention, and instances of dislike, fighting, or even bullying can be found.[4] These can lead to a stressful relationship between parents and the family as a whole.

The Benefits

Despite the difficulties, a blended family is considered a second chance at happiness. While there are obstacles that you need to tackle, there are a lot of benefits for the new families that often outweigh the disadvantages.

Individual Happiness

Parental happiness and felicity contribute extensively to family health. Happy parents lead to happy children. According to a study, single mothers are twice more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, resulting in detrimental effects on the children.[5] With blended families, single parents can find their own happiness while parenting.

Extended Support Network

Couples who have had longstanding experience as blended families swear by the immense love and support network that they acquired over time, that let them experience true happiness.[6] The extended support network of blended including stepparents, biological parents, grandparents, and stepsiblings is great for the emotional development of children.

Growth

With blended families, members learn acceptance and discipline, as well as the value of compromise and love. Blended families bring about a lot of positive emotions such as love and friendship. And also help in developing parents and children as strong individuals.

 

While blended families can be happy,a lot to handle and it takes a lot of effort to make them survive. It is also true that they provide a way to true happiness if you persevere and stay together.

 

References:

[1] Blended Family Issues. https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/blended-family-issues

[2] Blended Family and Step-Parenting Tips. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/parenting-family/step-parenting-blended-families.htm

[3]   Blended Family Issues. https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/blended-family-issues

[4] How to Navigate Challenges as a Blended Family. https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/blended-family-tips#common-challenges

 

[5] Psychosocial factors associated with symptoms of depression… population-based study. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2018.08.013

[6] A Blended Family’s Breakthrough. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stronger-the-broken-places/202009/blended-family-s-breakthrough

 

No Comments
Uncategorized

To Blend or Not to Blend

Couple thinking To Blend or Not to Blend

Just like you would in any major decision in life, considering all the compatibility factors before choosing your partner is a necessity. But if you are already a part of a family, the decisions become even harder. Not only must you consider your own happiness, but the comfort of your loved ones with your future choices.

A blended family is a mixture of choice, temperaments, personalities, and even more so of happiness, cherished moments, and comfort. Around 40% of married couples in the US with children are blended in some form, with at least one partner bringing a child into the marriage.[1] On the other hand, according to Dr. Hetherington (2002), stepfamily couples also have a divorce rate of roughly 45-50%.[2]

So, while it is tempting to visualize only the positives when you want to look for love again, you should also weigh out the possibilities of any clashes.

Challenges in Blended Families

For parents especially, life after kids is a strange combination of practical choices and looking out for your children’s happiness and well-being. Stepparents may find it challenging to adjust to parenting. For families with children, conflict often arises from children blaming the new family/parent for the disruption in their lives, fighting and rebelling to gain attention, and acting out in confusion. Here is what you can do:

  1. Give your children some time to adjust to the new norm. They should get to spend time with your partner and potential siblings and develop natural feelings of comfort, however long it may take. According to statistics, younger children find it much easier to adjust to a new family than teenagers.[3] So bear this in mind when setting your expectations. Or better yet, perhaps best to start without too many expectations!
  2. Being candid with your kids about your feelings and possibilities of a blend can work well with older kids, and will also help them trust you and open up about their feelings on the matter. When they realize you may feel the same – that you are also struggling to blend everyone together, they suddenly don’t feel so alone, they feel empathy, and sometimes that is enough to start with.

Another challenge is parenting together. Couples often disagree with parenting methods and in blended families, the conflict grows stronger due to the ‘non-biological’ factor. Some parents also have to deal with the guilt of dividing their attention between their children and a new partner. A new study (2015) estimates that parents in blended families are at 57% more risk of depression to the demanding combined parenting roles.[4]

Success Stories

Despite the confusion and difficulties, a large number of blended families are successful in achieving the balance required. Couples who put in a combined effort, remain consistent, and respect each other’s and their parenting boundaries find that with time, integration into the blended family becomes easy.

Some couples choose to prioritize their relationship over the concerns of the blended family. Because that was the binding force that initiated the blend. Still, others go out of their way to get their partner’s children comfortable and gain their acceptance, which is an integral factor of peace. Maintaining consistent effort and preserving through the hurdles is a key towards maintain successful blended families. Since there is no guide for parents and children to navigate this journey, all family stories are custom-made.

 

Blended families are emerging in the modern world as beacons of hope and happiness. While also bringing additional responsibility to the table. So, if you feel like you can handle the effort and patience it takes. It might just be the best decision of your life.

 

References:

[1] Smart Stepfamilies. https://smartstepfamilies.com/smart-help/marriage-family-stepfamily-statistics

[2]  Smart Stepfamilies. https://smartstepfamilies.com/smart-help/marriage-family-stepfamily-statistics

[3] Step-Parenting Blended Families. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/parenting-family/step-parenting-blended-families.htm

[4] Parents in Blended Families at Increased risk of Depression. https://www.psychcongress.com/article/parents-blended-families-increased-risk-depression

 

No Comments
Uncategorized

Navigating Finances in A Blended Family: How to Make Sure You’ve Covered all Bases

How to Handle Finances in a Blended Family

“Having a close and caring family is a beautiful dream, but a dream without a plan isn’t worth a nickel. However, a dream with a workable plan may be worth a million bucks.”  Dr. Rich Melheim, ‘Holding Your Family Together’.

The above quote perfectly sums up just how much effort has to be put into running a successful and happy household and this couldn’t be truer than in situations where there is financial planning required in a blended family.

Making financial decisions is a very important aspect of life and this becomes even trickier when you enter a marriage and need to undertake financial planning with your spouse. As if that wasn’t tricky enough as it is, financial planning in blended families is even more so. This is where partners enter into a marriage and there are kids and step-kids involved from previous relationships.

If you’re entering into a blended family situation or already find yourself in one, you may be asking yourself several questions. “What should step-parents and bio-parents pay for?” may be a question you’ve asked yourself over and over again. “Should I pay for my step-children?” is a question that may be on your mind. If you’re entering a blended family situation with kids of your own, you may wonder, “Should my partner pay for things my kids need if they’re not his own children?”

These questions aren’t easy to navigate, but it’s important for you to have clarity on financial matters before committing to such a situation because it can be the cause of trouble later on if not dealt with early in the relationship.

Partners may go into a step-parenting situation with the best of intentions to do justice to the kids, but without a clear plan, things can get complicated. We’ve got some helpful ways that you can navigate finances in a blended family to ensure that you, your partner, and the kids are treated fairly. Read on to find out.

Make sure there’s financial transparency between you and your partner

The first thing you need to do if you’re wondering how to split finances if you have step-children or are in a blended family is to start the conversation about it with your partner. Avoiding this topic is simply not a good idea.

Such a discussion isn’t merely to get an idea of how much each party earns so that you can carefully plan monthly expenses together and set aside an a plan for your future too. The discussion should also for a little deeper than that. You This is really a question of building relational trust with your partner and openly communicating your expectations in the relationship.

When kids and step-kids are involved and there are ex-spouses to consider, it becomes important that you understand what expenses your partner may have in terms of his alimony payments, child support, and other similar expenses. It would probably also be a good idea to discuss your financial philosophies and see if both your values are aligned as far as financial matters and the kids are concerned.

Openly discuss the question of what each party should be paying for as step-parent and/or bio-parent so both of you are on the same page.

Seek out the help of an expert or family lawyer

Once you’ve established relational trust with your partner and there’s financial transparency between you both, you’ll be able to decide whether you both have shared financial goals or not. Despite the best intentions that you may have for each other and the family, it’s a good idea to seek out the advice of a professional as well. While a family counselor or therapist can help with other complexities that may arise when you’re a part of a blended family, a family lawyer can make things clearer for you legally.

You can jointly create a Togetherness Agreement (which may or may not be legally binding based on the decision of partners involved). Such agreements clearly state the assets, debts, dreams, and obligations of both partners involved and outline the roles and responsibilities of each partner when it comes to the financial well-being of their family.

Stay on top of all your documentation

Documentation is key in order to help you monitor the dollars and have access to financial transparency. Divorce and remarriage involve a lot of paperwork, so make sure you know everything you can about your partner’s child support, alimony, and other legal obligations. This will ease your process to achieving and maintaining financial transparency in a relationship, especially more so if that relationship is in a blended family.

Create accounts

The task of creating accounts is a decision that is up to the partners involved. You could continue to maintain individual bank accounts and contribute towards household expenses based on the proportion of income brought in by each partner. You could even create a joint account and pay for expenses from that. The decision is up to you but whatever it is, both partners need to agree – and if needed, come to a middle ground on what to agree on. This would also be a good time to discuss contingency plans together. Bring up tough questions like: Who pays for the step-kids if one partner suffers a sudden job loss? Discussing situations like this can help you stay prepared and make things easier if such an event does arise. You may not get answers to all these questions all in one conversation – but it opens up the avenue to process & come up with a plan for it over time.

Treat children fairly

How to decide on financial planning if you have step-children? If you enter a family situation with kids of your own and become a step-parent, you may feel like you want to carve out a larger chunk of the finances for your own kids. This may not feel fair to the other kids and it’s not likely to result in a happy or successful blended family situation. If you do feel conflicted about the family situation, it’s a good idea to dig deeper into why this is the case. More often than not, the root cause isn’t the kids at all. It’s more to do with control, self-image, power, seeking validation, and other complex feelings. Getting to the root cause can help you overcome such feelings and realize that the kids aren’t the enemy here.

If all other things fail, before making any financial decision relating to your step-kids, ask yourself if you would be pleased with the outcome if your biological kids were at the receiving end of it. If you wouldn’t, it wouldn’t be fair to put your step-kids on the receiving end either. Treating them fairly is necessary if you want to succeed in such family dynamics.

Don’t put off estate planning or a discussion of inheritance

In keeping with the above point, make sure you discuss issues concerning inheritance and estate planning early on in your relationship. This avoids any fights in the future among the kids and step-kids and clearly outlines what will be due to whom when the right time comes.

What the experts and the experienced have to say

“It’s a transition in life for these families…We ask them to really look at the big picture and lay out everything on the table that they can, and to talk through it, trying to identify immediate and specific needs for their kids.” – Jeremy Simpson, Thrivent Financial professional, Alabama

“The biggest challenge is when blended families try to figure it out as they go and they don’t have those financial conversations in advance…They just decide to wing it because they’re in love, but then they later find out that their values clashes are so huge that they are very difficult to overcome.” – Deborah Price, Founder & CEO, The Money Coaching Institute, Petaluma, California

“Ask: what are your financial obligations to your ex? Is there child support? Is there alimony? Are you responsible for paying for housing or their utility bills? Having that conversation, asking those questions immediately. How hard is that?” – Laurie Marchel, co-author of ‘The Stepmoms’ Club: How to be a Stepmom Without Losing Your Money, Your Mind and Your Marriage.’

“There always seems to be a tug-of-war occurring when it comes to estate planning for a blended family, with the want to provide for the financial security of a surviving spouse while at the same time securing an inheritance for children of a previous marriage.” – Gregory Cayne, tax attorney & partner at Grant, Herrmann, Schwartz & Klinger LLP, Midtown Manhattan.

“Couples often say to one another, I’ll take care of your kids and you take care of mine, and they have the best of intentions…But the complexities of being a blended family, the multiple households that are involved and multiple caregivers, adults that are involved and the multiple generations that are involved make it a challenging process.” – Ron Deal, co-author of ‘The Smart Stepfamily Guide to Financial Planning’, marriage and family therapist.

Conclusion

Like several other matters in a relationship that require effort, financial planning is one of them and the task becomes even more difficult when the needs of a blended family have to be taken into consideration. The good news though, is that it’s not impossible. You just have to be committed enough to want it and put in the effort to achieve it.

In the words of John L. Beckley, “Most people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.”

No Comments
Living together Uncategorized

Books for Blended Families

Books for Blended Families

Every year, new blended families are formed – in the millions. The process can be stressful especially if you want to be sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

Books are certainly a P to guide us through this. Just knowing there are books out there on this topic helps you feel a little less along. It’s a feeling of knowing that there is evidence out there that while blending families could be new to you, there are some actual people out there who have been there, experienced it, and have succeeded (and wrote the book on it, literally!). So, if you’re looking for insight into how blended families work, what to expect, and everything else around the topic, you can stick to this website, or grab a book!

Given how many books are out there, it could be overwhelming picking a book to read. In this article, we have made some selections for you. Read on to see our list of recommended books for blended families.

The following section is a list of books for everyone in the family. Everyone has been carefully considered – even the kids, so no one is left out. So, let’s get started with the kids!

Blended Family Books for Little Ones

  • Do You Sing Twinkle? A Story About Remarriage and New Family by Sandra Levins and Bryan Langdo
  • The Family Book by Todd Parr
  •  My Fairy Stepmother, by Marni Prince, Jason Prince, and Susan Tegelaar
  • When Otis Courted Mama by Kathi Appelt
  • Step One, Step Two, Step Three and Four by Maria Ashworth
  • Annie and Snowball and the Wedding Day by Cynthia Rylant

 

Blended Family Books for Middle Grades

  • The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder and Alton Raible
  • The Thing About Leftovers by C.C. Payne
  • Freaky Fast Frankie Joe by Lutricia Clifton
  • We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen
  • Sarah, Plain, and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
  • A Smidgen of Sky by Dianna Doris Winget
  • Ink Is Thicker Than Water, by Amy Spalding

 

Blended Family Books for Parents

  • 4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication in Love, Life, Work–Anywhere!: A How-To Guide for Practicing the Empathic Listening, Speaking, and Dialogue Skills to Achieve Relationship Success Kindle Edition by Leal III, Bento C.
  • Building the Bonds of Attachment: Awakening Love in Deeply Traumatized Children by Daniel A. Hughes
  • Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do by Martin Ph.D., Wednesday
  • The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family by Ron L. Deal
  • The Smart Stepmom: Practical Steps to Help You Thrive by Ron L. Deal and Laura Petherbridge
  • The Smart Stepdad: Steps to Help You Succeed by Ron L. Deal
  • The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family by Ron L. Deal
  • The Happy Stepmother by Rachelle Katz
  • The Smart Stepfamily Marriage: Keys to Success in the Blended Family by Ron L Deal and David H. Olson
  • POSITIVE DISCIPLINE: THE COMPLETE GUIDE: Help Your Child Develop Self Discipline, Responsibility and Build Communication: From Toddler To Teenager by Susan Garcia
  • STEP PARENTING: 50 One-Minute DOs and DON’Ts for Stepdads and Stepmoms by Randall Hicks
  • Keys to Successful Stepfathering (Barron’s Parenting Keys) by Pickhardt Ph.D., Carl E. (Author)

 

Do you have any favourite books for blended families? We’d love to add them to our libraries too!

No Comments
Living together Uncategorized

Blended Families: When you know you need to seek counselling

Blended Families: When you know you need to seek counselling

You’re probably here because you’ve formed or are about to form a new family unit, where at least one other family unit already exists. In other words, when you know you need to seek counselling, you are blending families. This means at least one of the parties is bringing in children from a previous relationship and in order to start a brand new family. The desire is of course for  everything to work smoothly from day one, but more often than not, you will encounter some bumps in the road when starting a new blended family. But how do you tell if these are just bumps you need to ride in order to move forward, or if they are real issues that you will require help & support to overcome?

In order to know this, blended families must first understand what are healthy & unhealthy dynamics to be expected in  the new family. When the needle starts to swing towards unhealthy, that’s a signal for counselling or support to be considered. Disagreements, arguments and other issues are common in the beginning, but if this has progressed to unhealthy levels, it may be time to seek professional help.

Navigating the world of a blended family can be quite different to being in a traditional family. Often, a significant amount baggage can come along from past relationships and kids. Some families can find that they struggle to blend well. There is nothing wrong with seeking professional help to smooth out the creases and make it easier for everyone. Let’s take a closer look at the blended family, some common problems they face, and when they should consider counseling.

What is Blended Family?

A blended family can come in many different forms. It is basically a family that occurs when parents try to combine together with children from one or both of their previous relationships. It often results in a step-parent on one or both sides. Each family has already spent time growing and developing with their respective parents. When they try to blend with a new person, the step parent, or even with other children from the step-parent, there’s bound to be some kinks along the way.

Whether the original parent was ever married before or not, this blended family will cause children, as well as the adults, to go into a new family dynamic that they were not used to before. Whether both or just one partner is bringing kids into this relationship, it is important to give it time for the children to learn and understand the new dynamics they are in.

Keep in mind that these new relationship dynamics can get complicated. If Suzy were an only child with her parents before the divorce, she may not understand how to get along with Tim and Ben when they start living in her home with her mom and new step dad. This is a confusing time already, with Suzy trying to get used to a new parent in the mix, and she also has to adjust to two new step-siblings as well.

Things are tough for Tim and Ben as well. They now have to get used to having a sister for the first time, as well as a new mother figure in their lives. If you as the parent feel confused and overwhelmed by the changes and adjustments, just imagine how much harder this is for the children involved, regardless of how many.

Common Problems That Show Up In Blended Families?

There are many different problems that can arise in a blended family. With some of these families, some work and mutual understanding can help them to handle the problems on their own. For others, help from the outside might be necessary.

Regardless of whether the blended family should consider seeking help for their problems or not, some of the common issues that blended families may face include:

1. Not being on the same page

If you and your partner are not able to get together and agree on important things in the family, it will be harder for the children to get along as well. Right from the beginning, sit together and discuss how you will handle important decisions such as how to parent the children and what your discipline strategies are. Some blended families do better by allowing only the biological parent to be involved in discipline for their child.

2.  Trying to be the same as before

It goes without saying that going back to the way you were before is not going to be a reality at this point. Both you and your partner are now responsible for a family that is larger and much different than it was in the past. You can’t continue things as before because you have new people in the mix and the process is different. So sit down with your partner to see how you should handle how the new household should be run, from chores to errands to everything else, that will come up on a day to day basis.

3. Forgetting the ex

If there are children in the relationship, then there is an ex somewhere in the picture. And forgetting to factor this person in is probably not a wise move. Unless the ex is completely cut off from the children and hasn’t been seen in years, they will have some part to play in your family too. So what’s the healthiest way of going about this? Your ex will always be important to your children, even if you have re-married now. So it’s probably best to conduct the ex relationship in the most civil and friendly way that you can muster up in order to help the kids.

4. Not letting your partner parent your children

It can be hard to allow someone else to parent your biological children. As it would be difficult for your partner to accept you parenting or disciplining their children. However, there should be some agreement as to what could be acceptable for both parties. If Thomas the step-father is beginning to find that his step-son Max tends to be very messy, he should be allowed to raise this to his wife Sarah (Max’s biological mom). Sarah may want to try to be objective about this. The couple might want to discuss what Thomas should do in a situation like this. Would Sarah prefer Thomas to approach Max directly to address his messiness? Or would Sarah prefer Thomas to come to her so that she can address issues with her biological son herself? See if you can agree to be fair and kind in these situations and to not get offended as long as your partner keeps the conversation healthy & constructive.

5. Sibling Rivalry

The children from both sides of the relationship are not going to always get along. Even children from the same parents sometimes don’t get along. So be prepared, that with the added complexities of a blended family, that this can multiply.

6. Not giving your children enough attention

You have more children now. This means that you and your partner need to take extra time to really give each one some individual attention. Find even a little time each week to spend with each child in a positive way. Even 10 mins per kid per day will do at the start. This helps them to feel like they are still important in the family, even with all of the changes.

7. Forgetting that it takes work

No matter what fairy tales you have in your head, it is going to take work to make a blended family come together. There is a learning curve and you do not need to master it right away. But do realise that this is something new for everyone and it may not be easy at the start.

Do I Need a Counsellor?

Sometimes blended families can put in a lot of work to try and get everyone on the same page.  And to see success with their new dynamic and yet you find something  is still not working. There are too many arguments, not everyone feels like they are truly a family. Or you worry that you may need to break up with your partner just to get some normalcy back to your lives.

Consider seeking out the help of a counsellor for your blended family. Did you know that there are more than one type of counselling available to help you through this? Perhaps you and your partner just need some assistance with learning how to navigate your new parenting roles? Or perhaps you feel that a few of the children are struggling with this new dynamic and need help adjusting? Would the whole family benefit with coming in and learning about this new family and how to work together?

All blended families can benefit from working with a counsellor. However, there are a few red flags that show that counselling may be more urgently required. These include:

  • When the yelling and screaming is almost constant.
  • When a child tries to run away from home.
  • If physical violence, either from a parent or a child, as begun.
  • When a child has begun to exhibit self-harm.
  • When the parents are at the brink of splitting up to stop the insanity.

If any of these have occurred, and especially if several have already happened. It is time to get the blended family into counseling sessions to deal with the problems.

How to Make a Successful Blended Family

No matter how hard you try, be prepared for some hiccups along the way. Bringing together two different families and trying to make it work is no small feat. It is natural for the kids from each side to experience some pullback at the idea that some of their traditions and routines will now be different.

The good news is that there are things you and your partner can do to make your blended family work. Considering counselling when things seem to get out of control is a great first place to start. But some other things you can do include:

  • Be civil: If the members of the new family can be civil to one another, rather than trying to withdraw or be hurtful, then the relationship will go more smoothly. Make it a rule that no matter how angry or upsetting something is. Everyone is expected to be civil to one another.
  • All relationships are respectful: This includes everyone. Not only should the children be respectful to you, but you need to be respectful to them. Remember that this is hard on them. They are trying to adjust to changes as well. When you can be open and respectful to each other, the family will work.
  • Compassion for everyone: The children that come into a blended family are all at different life stages, meaning they all have different needs. Each one may also be at their own stage of accepting this relationship. Teenagers may adapt to this differently than a toddler for example. Keep an open mind and discuss with your counselor how you can respect and work with these differences.
  • Understand that things will change with time: The goal is that after being together for a few years, the family will be able to grow. Members will have time to adjust and when the rules above are followed. They can start to create their own bonds. If handled well, even if that means help from a counselor, the family will blend together well.

Final Thoughts

Too many blended families do not seek the counseling they need. This is often a combination of being in denial about any real problems in the family and the negative stigma that is left behind when it comes to visiting a counselor.

Seeking help from a counselor is not a sign that you are weak or that you did something wrong. It is a recognition that something is not working and you need help. Your blended family is important and if you can recognise that something is off and that the members of the family need help bonding and getting along. Then a counselor may be the best route to make that happen. Seeking help early on, rather than pushing it to the side. And forgetting about it is the best way to give everyone a voice in this new family dynamic.

No Comments
Uncategorized

Raising Step-Kids Alongside the Real Parents: How to Find Your Niche

Raising Step-Kids Alongside the Real Parents

“Family isn’t defined only by last names or by blood, it’s defined by commitment and by love.” – Dave Willis.

Are you venturing into the challenging role of a step-parent? Do you already find yourself in that role but can’t seem to be getting it right? Step-parenting comes with several challenges of its own, but with a little effort and commitment, it can be really rewarding. The quote above perfectly captures what it means to truly be “family” and as long as you’re committed to your spouse, you’re going to be willing to make it work.

That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy though. Step-parenting comes with a unique share of responsibilities that can sometimes seem like a blur and leave you confused about whether you’re doing the right thing. The following quote sums up just how tricky step-parenting can be.

“A stepparent doesn’t just marry a spouse: they marry their spouse’s entire situation. They have to find a balance between supporting and defending without overstepping visible and invisible boundaries.” – Anonymous.

Although finding the right balance isn’t easy, it’s possible for you to raise step-kids alongside the biological parents comfortably. You don’t have to lose sleep over the question, “Can I ever be respected as a step-parent?” Our guide can show you how to be a good step-parent without over-stepping your boundaries.

Don’t try to play the role of their biological parent

“Step parents are not around to replace a biological parent, rather, to augment a child’s life experience.” – Azriel Johnson.

Do remind yourself of the word BONUS. Often step-parents are referred to as bonus-parents for a reason. Your step-kid already has two biological parents. You don’t have to replace any one of them. While they may be your spouse’s ex, they’re still your step-kid’s parent and that’s a fact that will remain and cannot be denied.

Understand how the kids must feel

To maintain a good relationship with your step-kids, a good first step would be to try an empathise with them. Expect the natural desire for kids to hope that their biological parents will get back together. At the beginning, don’t be too surprised if they even consider you to be an “intruder” to their family dynamics and even blame you for the split. This can naturally make them hesitant to develop any association with you as they may view it as being disloyal to their biological parent. See if you can understand they’re perspective and try to work with vs. against on the path towards  trust and affection.

Grow into your role

It’s alright if you don’t hit it off with your step-kids the very first time you blend the family. Building a strong relationship takes time, so grow into your new role. Instead of thinking you’ll hit it off with a quick one on one bonding session. Arrange to spend time together as a group. Kids are likely to feel a lot more relaxed when they have their parents around, so rely on that to spend some time with them. Plan activities together, observe what your step-kid enjoys doing, their interests/hobbies, and ease into the relationship before spending any one-on-one time with them. How to be a good step-parent isn’t something that you intrinsically know, but it’s something that you can develop over time.

Don’t insist on what they should call you

If they want to call you by name, let them. If they want to refer to you with a term of endearment, be happy about it. This will allow them to feel in charge and give them some amount of power, especially when they’re feeling helpless to change the situation between their parents.

“When we were dating, my 7 year old daughter often referred to my then-boyfriend as “Uncle” which is a word we use in Asia as a term of respect to older people. It was only YEARS later, when we were married for over a year, than she suddenly said that she wanted to start calling him “Papa”. Even then, she slipped back and forth for awhile, and now, it flows out so easily. No one pushed her towards it. She decided on her own.” – Sandra, a bio-mom to 7 year old girl.

Don’t get involved in the co-parenting drama

Parenting decisions will still be made by their biological parents, so see if you can remain respectful of that and as hard as it may seem, stay out of such discussions unless you’re explicitly asked for your opinion. If you must share your opinion, share it with your spouse first, in a careful way vs. imposing your ideas. If there’s conflict between your spouse and the ex, let them sort it out on their own. Your spouse will surely approach you if she feels she needs your help in the matter.

Don’t trash talk the biological parent

Feeling some anger or resentment towards your spouse or even their ex? That can be normal. But please do hold back from openly sharing your thoughts when your step-kids are around. The kids may even get angry themselves and share their thoughts with you. Even then, try to resist adding fuel to the fire. Kids can be fiercely protective of their parents and this is not a line you want to cross if your long-term goal is harmony in your newly blended family.

Don’t counter the wishes of the biological parent

You may want to win some brownie points with your step-kids or appear cool by allowing them to do things that their biological parent doesn’t, but think twice before doing so. It can only lead to conflict. Always be supportive of your spouse’s parenting decisions, but feel free to make gentle suggestions and ask if they’re open to listening.

Be there for them, wholeheartedly

While you can’t take the place of their biological parents, you can be there for them when they need a parent figure or even just a friend they can depend on. Show up to events that are important for them, whether it’s a poetry recital, a school play, or a football match. Cheer them on and let them know that you’re on their team and you  value what’s important to them and are there to be part of their growth.

Encourage one on one time with their bio-parents

Several step-parents feel like if step-kids spend one on one time with their biological parents, it may negatively affect the equation with them. This is far from the truth. When you encourage one-on-one time-spending with their biological parents, you establish that it isn’t a competition and that you care about their overall wellbeing. This will also win you the respect of their biological parents and lay the foundation for healthy family bonding.

Balance out the good cop/bad cop act

You may not get involved in co-parenting or take on the main role of disciplinarian for your step-kid, but there are times when you’ll have to step in. You do, after all, want the best for them and correcting them at times is in their best interest. This is a balancing act and must be treated with care. You need to appear approachable enough for them to trust you, while still being firm. The main message should be that they can’t walk all over you just because you’re the step-parent in the equation.

But what if the real mom/dad interferes in my step-parenting? That’s a reasonable question to ask. The best way to find the right balance is talking to your spouse as well as their ex about expectations from the step-parenting equation. While you may not be thrilled about this, it’s important to do this so that your spouse’s ex doesn’t make things difficult for you.

Kids are more likely to take you seriously when they feel like you’re acting on behalf of their parents. So, a good way to reinforce this is – if the real parents tell the kids that you’re in charge when they’re not around and therefore, they ought to listen to you.

Maintain open communication with your spouse

In all of this, don’t forget that your relationship with your spouse is extremely important in determining how everyone gets along. Openly communicate your expectations of each other with regard to your step-kids and work on finding solutions to problems faced together. Always remember that it’s not you versus your step-kid when it comes to your spouse’s attention. It’s up to both of you to communicate openly and make it work.

Real Step-Parents Speak: What People Won’t Tell You About Step-Parenting

You may receive a lot of advice on how to be a good step-parent, but here’s what some real-life step-parents have to say about what people don’t always tell you.

“Falling in love with someone doesn’t automatically guarantee you’ll love his or her kids and it’s not a prerequisite for a happy, successful stepfamily. As a step-parent, strive to act in loving ways by practicing kindness and respect. And if love develops? Consider it a bonus!” – Brenda Ockun.

“No one tell you that being a step-parent will put your self-esteem to the ultimate test.” – Jenna Korf.

“Do I try and be the cool parent and handle it on my own and keep what they say to me in confidence, knowing that their dad or mom should know about it? If I tell the kids’ dad or mom, then they will feel as though I betrayed them and their trust.” Kerri Mingoia.

“One of the biggest mistakes step-couples make is putting the needs of their relationship last. A stepfamily can’t survive without a strong, connected couple steering the ship. Prioritizing your relationship isn’t done at the expense of the kids; it’s done for them.” – Brenda Ockun.

“No one tells you that all your stepchildren really need is a friend, not a replacement parent. More importantly, an adult they can trust but who doesn’t project needs onto them.” – Bleakney Ray

Conclusion

Just remember, as challenging as it is, it’s possible for you to raise step-kids alongside real parents in a healthy, wholesome way. Here’s a little quote that will hopefully bring a smile to your face:

“The only steps in this house are the stair steps and the only half in this house is the half & half creamer.” – Al Hodson.

We hope you’re able to embrace your new family dynamics just like this using the tips we’ve laid out for you above.

No Comments