Blended Families 101: What To Expect + How To Survive!

Blended Families 101: What To Expect + How To Survive!

Blended families woven together by choice, strengthened by love, tested by everything and each uniquely ours
— Unknown

Enjoying the gift of a family is so easily taken for granted, because - let’s be honest - as loving, heart-warming + essential our relationships with family members are… they also drive us CRAZY! Families are such complex yet simple structures. Every person has a role in the family + contributes to the well-being or dysfunction of the family.

When these roles shift to invite someone new into the family, you can expect chaos! I know! I know! You think I’m being dramatic, but give me a moment to explain. Chaos is inevitable in this situation, because there are so many emotions, fears + expectations tied into blended families. When you’ve been a member of the family + things are done the same way or similar ways for so long - introducing a new dynamic can make or break various relationships + ultimately the family itself. How do you weather the storms that come with blended families? What exactly can you expect?

I’m no pro, but as a Therapist {and a parent of a blended family for 5+ yrs now -- whooo hooo!} here are a few things to expect + how to survive….

Blended Families 101: What to Expect + How to Survive!

1// Expect friction.

This is normal with transitions. Communicate as much as possible for every little thing because that's what will keep you strong. It’s pretty standard to experience friction or conflict in any relationship. So why would you expect any less from a blended family? Transitions are difficult for adults + even more difficult for kids. This is especially true when you’re starting a new life together. Conflict can happen because the kids are still dealing with the loss of their biological parent, feel like the new parent wants to replace their biological parent or may be angry with their biological parent (your spouse) for moving on to a new relationship.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? // Communicate as much as possible - even when you think you may not have to. You have to remember this is a new situation, new dynamics + an entirely new family unit. Communication keeps your relationships strong. Let the kids + your spouse know your expectations up front, discuss it + be consistent.

2// Some level of comparison to their parent.

Reassure them you're not taking the other parent's place. You will be compared to their parent. You’re going to be compared, because of the way their parent does things is what they’ve known things their whole life. Kids may not realize things can be done a different way. For example, if they’re used to getting ice cream before Sunday dinner + you don’t allow that - it will most likely take some time before they adjust to this new expectation. Don’t be offended by this comparison, it’s a natural reaction to question new situations.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? // Reassure your stepchildren that you don’t want to take their parents place. They may not believe you the first time, but you will still have to say it over….and over….and over….and over again. Your actions will constantly be judged to see if you’re sincere. Think about how you feel before you confront this issue. Don’t give in to the pressure to do everything like their parent -- unless you really want to keep things that way.

3// Do your research on blended families.

Whether you’re dating or engaged to someone who has kids or you’re the one bringing kids into the relationship - BE PROACTIVE! Talk to someone who is part of a blended family. Try to understand their perspective + what to expect. Even after talking to someone, you will never fully understand what it feels like until  you’re in that situation. However, learning as much as you can will be helpful to give you a general idea of what to expect.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?// Be objective when you’re talking to a parent in a blended family. It’s so easy to judge people for their private thoughts + feelings, but I want you to consider several things: this person decided to be vulnerable + share their story with you -- don’t take this for granted, the reality of parenting is that it comes with some really dark truths. If you’re already a parent, you know this to be true. Why would we think blended families would be any different? Relationships are some of the most rewarding yet frustrating things in our lives.

4// Conflicting feelings about yourself.

Unfortunately as a parent of a blended family, you will hear negative comments. Comments about your style of parenting, your character, questioning your motives + hawk-eyes people watching  everything you do. These comments + situations can cause you to have a ton of conflicting feelings about whether people are actually right about you. There are many times you will start to question yourself + your own motives. This is actually good, because it helps you to reflect on exactly what you feel.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? // Offer yourself grace + know that if you’re doing the best you can do -- it’s okay to take a break away to decompress. This is hard! How you feel is completely normal. You’re not the only parent to experience these frustrations. When this happens, I want you to talk to someone neutral you trust who can help you work through these feelings. A therapist is most likely the most neutral person. However, if you don’t want to go to a therapist, I would recommend you talk to someone in your life who typically tells you the truth no matter how difficult it is. If you don’t want to talk to someone in person, consider seeing a Therapist through a service like the Maven Clinic. (ppst! You can find me through under IL Mental Health Practitioner + Seida Hood, LCSW)

5// Be honest.

Be honest about how you feel. You could be giving off a conflicting vibe if you're nervous about being honest. This is very important, because your heart/actions speak before you ever open your mouth. Again this is the importance of finding an epic therapist to work with. Therapy is a place where you can be completely honest with no fear of judgment. Once you’ve worked through those emotions, they will most likely come out smoother to those around you.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? // Consider joining blended MOM/DAD group. This is another place those dark thoughts can come out without fear of judgment. When most people hear you should go to a group, they think it’s too extreme. However, this is where you find your strength! This is where you will find your Tribe! (Here’s a page from the workbook I wrote to help you find your Tribe!) Don’t underestimate the power of feeling supported by Tribe Members!

Although blended families bring a lot of tension + stress, they also bring a whole lotta extra love! I’ve had more good memories than the not-so-good memories + if you’re not there yet: don’t worry! The rain doesn’t last forever! What advice do you have for blended families? If you’re struggling with understanding how you feel + where you fit into the family dynamics - take the Blended Families Self Audit! Decide if you want to share your results or not -- it's totally up to you! If you want to share, you can share your results in the Tribe Lounge or send me an email: - can't wait to hear from you! 

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