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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

 

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