In my years of experience as an LDS family counselor I can say that I have rarely seen stepfamilies, or blended families, that are free from problems related to divorce and remarriage. Despite the ease with which the transition was made in 1960s TV shows, it almost never happens that smoothly in real life. In fact, blending a family can cause anxiety and stress for every member of the family from children to parents to grandparents and beyond.
▶ Challenges Faced By Adults
Second marriages and even first marriages can be difficult even when there are no children involved; but research shows that second marriages that involve children from the first marriage are more likely to fail. The main reason for this is likely the increased stress that every member of a step or blended family experiences. For couples, it may be difficult to go from the heady days of dating and the excitement of a new romance to struggling to keep children, ex-spouses, grandparents and other extended-family members happy and at ease with a second marriage. Once thrown into a blended family situation, couples may butt heads about differing parenting and disciplining styles and about their conflicted emotions. If one spouse doesn’t have children and is becoming a stepparent for the first time, they may have difficulty adjusting quickly to their new role and to their new children. They may struggle to find the right balance between wanting to be their stepchildren’s friend and figuring out how to parent them appropriately.
▶ Challenges Faced By Children
As difficult as blending families is for the two adults involved, it is a thousand times more difficult for children. They must deal with a situation they had no hand in making and they must live with a stepparent and stepsiblings they didn’t choose. Children’s emotional problems begin with their parents’ divorce. When one or both of their parents remarry, they must deal with having a stepparent. If they dislike the stepparent, their anxiety and emotional turmoil increases because they feel guilty about disliking someone their parent loves. If they like the stepparent, they may feel they’re being disloyal to their biological parent. Children may also feel anger and resentment toward the stepparent, especially if that person takes on the role of disciplinarian and rule-maker. The addition of step siblings can create a different kind of anxiety for a child who may become confused about his or her place in the family.
▶ Counseling Can Help With The Challenges Of Blending A Family
Family therapy can be an effective way for the members of a blended family to work through their issues in a safe setting. An LDS family counselor can schedule individual and group sessions that will allow every member of the family to talk about their feelings. For adults, counseling can help them to work out issues like discipline, financial obligations and time commitments. For children, counseling can give them a way to discuss their fears and other emotions that they may not feel comfortable expressing at home.
If you are in the process of blending two families, get the help of an LDS family counselor to help ease the transition. Call me, Jody VanDrimmelen, at Insight Child & Family Counseling at (972) 426-9500 or visit www.j9n.83e.myftpupload.com to schedule an appointment.