Blended families are common but that doesn’t make them easy; so what do you do when your blended family problems seem insurmountable?! Despite all our hard work and good intentions, sometimes two families just don’t mix together well. If you find yourself in such a situation, it may feel a little scary and daunting. How can you make everybody get along and, well… blend together smoothly?
The good news is that this situation is not unusual or impossible to solve. If you know what red flags to look out for, you can identify what to work on in order to resolve the problems that are standing in the way of allowing your blended family to thrive. Here are some tips from parents who’ve been there…
Signs of blended family problems
The first step to improving your blended family problems is to identify if things aren’t blending well. Here are some signs to look out for:
- When stepsiblings don’t get along
Sibling rivalry is standard in all families, but it can get especially problematic in blended families when brothers and sisters don’t have the bond of a lifelong relationship to help them set aside their differences.
- When jealousy rears its head
There are many ways jealousy can manifest in a blended family. Maybe your children are jealous of your new partner, feeling that they are taking your attention away from them. Maybe there is jealousy between the stepsiblings. Heck, you may even feel jealous of the blood bond between your partner and their children that you don’t have with your stepkids.
- When parenting styles don’t mix
There are so many different approaches to parenting and the one you have may not automatically go hand-in-hand with that of your partner. Your blended family may experience some hiccups and confusion if your parenting styles are at odds.
- When new behavioural problems appear
If your children suddenly show signs of behavioral problems like defiance or aggression that weren’t there before, it may be related to the growing pains of a blended family.
- When there is an obvious split in the household
The goal of a blended family is to blend. If you find that everybody keeps to “their” side of the family, it’s most likely an issue.
Red flags for blended families
All of the problems listed above are on the general side, so here are some specific examples of red flag scenarios that may point to a need to work on the “blending” part of your blended family.
- Your stepchildren don’t listen to you or respect your authority, or the same is the case for your biological children and their stepparent.
- Family gatherings and meals are tense and uncomfortable.
- Stepsiblings don’t speak to one another.
- Siblings gang up on and exclude their step-sibling(s).
- You and your partner can’t agree on rules for the household.
- Your step-children only ask their biological parent for permission and help and don’t come to you – or vice versa with your partner.
- Your blended family has a hard time agreeing upon things such as what activity to do, what places to go to, and so on.
Naturally, there are many more red flags that can be cause for concern, but these examples should help you get a sense of what to watch out for.
Resolving Blended Family Problems
If you’re reading this and finding yourself nodding along to some of the problems and red flags listed above, you don’t have to panic. Your blended family may not be in its ideal place right now, but there are solutions to every problem. Here are some steps you can take to address the issues you may have mixing your families.
Show a united front
Children will follow their parent’s example and if you and your partner aren’t completely unified, chances are the kids will also feel comfortable acting like they’re not a solid family unit. Make sure that you and your partner put in the effort to stay consistent and act together. Don’t contradict each other’s rules or negate each other’s parenting styles. It may take a lot of long, even difficult, conversations to get on the same page about the rules and standards you want to put in place for your household. This is an effort that is not only worth making but is absolutely critical to make in order to allow your blended family to truly blend.
Respect the old
Transitioning to a blended family can be threatening for children who may fear the loss of a previous lifestyle that they were attached to. Your kids might miss how things used to be, leading to a rejection of the new. Make sure that you don’t try to pretend the past never happened. Respect the traditions that you had before. Sure, some things will have to change, but that doesn’t have to mean letting go of everything your kids loved about your family’s previous iteration. Letting them hold on to some traditions can be a great comfort.
Build the new
That being said, building new family traditions can be incredibly exciting! Finding common ground between what both sides of the family like can be a fun process that leads to exciting revelations. Maybe you’ll start doing taco night every Tuesday or playing soccer together on the weekends. The future is full of possibilities for your blended family, so why not enjoy the process of discovering what your new traditions and customs will be? Let your kids take an active part and even lead the way forward so they feel invested in and excited by their family’s future instead of alienated by it.
Take your time
Of course, change takes time. Getting used to the new isn’t easy for anybody, especially not kids who haven’t experienced too many major life changes. It’s okay if things take a while and there are some bumps in the road. Respect and validate your children’s feelings. Try to talk things out openly instead of sweeping them under the rug. You’re all in this together, and the process may be slow-going. That’s perfectly fine.
Ask for help
Sometimes family problems go beyond what you can handle on your own, and that is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. If you’re at a loss and none of what you are trying seems to help, it’s a fantastic idea to reach out and seek professional help. Family counselors and therapists are trained to help you overcome difficult issues. Even just one or two meetings with a counselor might make you feel much better.
Alls well that ends well
It’s no secret that getting a blended family to cooperate and get along can be challenging. If that’s your experience, you aren’t alone. Many blended families experience problems like a lack of harmony or even jealousy, bullying, and defiance. But if you know what signs to look out for and approach your issues with patience, candor, and good intentions, you’ll be able to get through this.
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