When the topic of ‘blended families’ comes up, the picture that comes to most people’s minds is the seemingly complicated but always well ending lives of the infamous Brady Bunch. The kids were adorable and healthy, there was a housekeeper/cook and two of the most perfect parent’s one could ever hope to meet. Is this the norm for most blended families? I have a hunch, not.
There are numerous issues that can come up with blending two families together but for now we are going to tackle three:
Difference in religious beliefs
The first one we’ll tackle is religious beliefs. When you have taken your children to church every Sunday and have introduced a certain belief system into their lives, it can be very challenging for them when they are now part of a new family where not all members have the same beliefs. They may now have a stepparent and siblings with different religious beliefs or no religious beliefs at all. Depending on the age and maturity of the child this could be hugely confusing and should be given great care by the parents involved to help them process this new reality.
Acceptance from new Grandparents and extended families
Another hurdle is new extended families. Children are usually born with two sets of original grandparents. Now they will be introduced to the parents of their new stepparent and insecurities can heighten. Will they be accepted? Will there be jealousies of new siblings having to share their grandparents’ affections? Will they feel disloyal to their original grandparents if they grow fond of these new grandparents? When children are introduced to new ‘extended’ families, there needs to be an open dialogue between parent and child to help them find their way. If they do not feel that they ‘fit in’ with the new extended families (i.e. grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc) holidays and family functions can be a lonely time and place for them. Be aware of how everyone is adjusting and step in when needed.
Illnesses, learning disabilities, emotional challenges, etc.
Lastly, let’s tackle the topic of the adjustment of a child with an illness or handicap that has to now blend into a new family. Their original family will be aware of this challenge and will know how to comfort, treat or understand the special needs of this child. New stepparents and siblings will not. They will have to be educated to this child’s particular needs and have an understanding and sensitivity to not only how this child adjust, but the adjustment of the whole family around these special needs. Not dealing with the needs of ALL the children in the family when it comes to a special needs child as it can fester resentment from new siblings of how their lives are being affected. They will have to be educated and have you, the parents, model how to deal with this challenge effectively and sensitively.
Regardless of the issues above and countless others, be encouraged knowing that ‘any’ family requires hard work. With blended families it is sometimes just ‘different’ work. Merging two families does not automatically become one big happy ‘Brady Bunch’ family on its’ own. You will have to find what works and fix what doesn’t work. The key is education, communication, diligence and love. Lots and lots of love!
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