Do Stepfamilies & Blended Families Really Work? We Find Out

In the United States, the divorce rate as of 2021 was roughly 45%. Blended families are very common in today’s world, and they do not come without their challenges. So, do blended families really work?

Stepfamilies and blended families can work successfully providing the couple is equipped to overcome common challenges within a blended family. The most successful blended families work together financially, have an equal understanding of household rules, and waited at least two years after a divorce to remarry.

In this article, we will dive into what a blended family is, as well as their common challenges and benefits.

Parents outside with child

What Is a Stepfamily or Blended Family?

When you and your spouse live together with the children from one or both of your previous relationships, you establish a blended family or stepfamily.

The experience of creating a new mixed family may be both gratifying and challenging. While you, as parents, are likely to be pleased about remarriage and starting a new family, your children or your new spouse’s children may not be.

They’ll probably be unsure how the future changes will influence their connections with their biological parents. They’ll also be concerned about living with new stepsiblings, whom they may or may not know well, if not dislike.

Some children may be resistant to change, and you may grow upset as a parent if your new family does not work in the same way as your old one.

While mixing families is never easy, these pointers can assist your new family to navigate the transition.

Regardless of how strained or difficult things appear at first, you and your new stepchildren may develop a loving and happy blended family with open communication, mutual respect, and plenty of love and patience.

Challenges of Blended and Stepfamilies

As more than half of American households remarry or recouple, blended families are becoming more common. While conflict occurs in all types of families, blended families confront several specific issues.

Blended family issues are frequently unanticipated and appear after the new family has been formed.

Knowing what to expect can help you solve problems before they become out of hand, or you may be able to prevent them entirely with little preparedness.

Although blended families might provide some unique problems, there are numerous options available when it comes to determining the best arrangement for your family.

Let’s take a look at some common challenges that blended families experience.

Legal Issues

For both parents and children, blended families can be a wonderful thing. It’s encouraging to know that we may all find love again, even after a difficult and heartbreaking divorce.

Healthy connections with stepparents can also benefit children immensely. Blended families, unfortunately, may encounter additional obstacles during and after divorce.

Children’s issues are the most common, and parents’ bitter feelings about the divorce frequently come into play.

Shared Custody

We all heal in our own time after a divorce. Before their divorce is official, one parent may have already begun a relationship with a new partner.

Child custody often becomes more about punishing an ex than caring for the child’s best interests, as your high conflict divorce lawyer will tell you.

Custody issues can also arise in blended families if one or both parents are going through a divorce. If you and your ex both sincerely care about the child’s best interests, you might be able to work out an informal visiting agreement.

You may be able to obtain a stepparent adoption if you are a married stepparent who wants greater protection in the case of a future divorce.

This option is only accessible if the child’s biological father is either absent or willing to relinquish his parental rights.

Concerns About Child Support

Many divorced parents ask if their spouse’s support payments will be terminated if he or she remarries or cohabitates with a new partner.

This is true in the situation of spousal maintenance, but not in the case of child support. The purpose of your monthly payment is to fund your child’s basic needs.

The court does not see your co-parent as financially liable for your child just because he or she forms a blended family with another spouse.

Another concern that child support lawyers frequently hear is if a father’s child support obligation can be reduced if he remarries and has a blended family.

Because you have additional children to support, whether they are stepchildren or biological children from your second marriage, the court will not reduce your child support obligation.

However, if child support has become a burden as a result of a job loss or an increase in your ex’s income, you may be able to obtain a reduction in your support obligation.

Termination of Parental Rights

After having a child with her first partner, it’s typical to hear about a woman marrying a new man. Fathers who were unmarried at the time of their child’s birth are frequently anxious that their rights to be involved in the child’s life would be taken away by the mother.

This becomes even more of an issue in the scenario described above, where a new man enters the mother’s life and wishes to assist her in parenting her child.

Even if your child’s mother has sole custody and has tried to separate you from your child, she should not be entitled to terminate your parental rights.

Judges feel that each kid should have the benefit of a legal father and mother, so they try to prevent terminating rights as much as possible.

Regardless of the threats leveled against you, you must know how to appear in court and defend your rights. At the first sign of trouble, contact a family lawyer so you can start preparing for the court appearance.

Speak with a family law attorney about any issues you have regarding family law, whether they are related to your ex or your blended family.

Feeling Territorial

To build a successful, cohesive blended family, you must first establish trust. Children may be unsure of their new family at first and resist your efforts to get to know them.

Often, this is simply fear of having to share their parent with a new partner (and stepsiblings). Instead of taking their unfavorable opinions personally, work on establishing a trust to strengthen your new mixed family.

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Adjustment to New Routines

The temptation to hurry towards remarriage and a mixed family without first creating solid foundations might be strong after a hard divorce or separation and then finding a new love relationship.

However, taking your time allows everyone to adjust to each other as well as the notion of marriage and starting a new family.

Children can become unsettled if they are exposed to too many changes at once. Instead of heaping one dramatic family change on top of another, blended families have the highest success rate if the couple waits two years or more after a divorce to remarry.

Financial Difficulties

Managing money with your spouse is difficult enough on its own, but combining two households under a single budget can make things even more difficult.

Blended families bring a combination of assets and debt, established careers, and well-established financial habits, not to mention children from previous relationships to the table.

They do, however, bring life experience and a desire to avoid mistakes made in the past.

Money experts advise couples who are tying the knot for the second or subsequent time to be open and honest with each other about their assets to develop a completely working household.

They must also take steps to ensure that their values and vision are in sync.

The most difficult situation arises when mixed families try to figure it out as they go along and do not have those financial discussions ahead of time.

They simply decide to go with the flow because they’re in love, but they soon discover that their values clash and are so significant that they’ll be impossible to overcome.

When it comes to money management, we all have baggage. Some people require a large safety net to feel secure, maybe as a result of their parents’ excessive spending or a period of unemployment.

Parents, too, have differing views on how much to give their children as an allowance and whether or not they want their children to pay for their own college expenses. In a blended family, this can be difficult.

You don’t have to agree with your spouse’s spending and saving habits, but you should talk about where you stand financially, why it matters to you, and what you expect from him or her.

You should also try to meet in the center. Discuss who will pay for summer camp, braces or other health-care needs, and college expenditures if one or both of you have children from a previous marriage.

What if one partner loses his or her job or is forced to leave the workforce, even temporarily, because he or she is sick or injured? Is the other partner capable of paying the expenses while maintaining your joint quality of living?

Are you planning on having additional children? When do you think you’ll be able to retire? Will you have to move to a bigger house? Are you thinking about changing careers?

Is it possible that one or more of your parents will move in with you as they get older?

You need to have a really clear, healthy dialogue about the best approach to form this family unit that develops a future together.

It should originate from a point of what our vision is and what we hope to accomplish as a family, both practical and intangible goals.

Sharing Parents is Difficult for a Child

It’s common for children and teenagers in mixed homes to experience a wide range of emotions and to feel various things at different times.

Your child may be ecstatic to be back in a home with two parents. They may be anticipating the arrival of new brothers and sisters.

Yet eventually, your child may feel as though they don’t belong in the blended family. Regardless of how ecstatic your youngster was at first, reality soon sets in.

It might be challenging to go from having your parent to suddenly having to share them with their parent’s new spouse.

It can be just as difficult to share a parent with stepchildren. as they begin to feel threatened by the divided attention, jealousy, and bitterness.

It’s typical for your child to begin to have unfavorable thoughts about the blended family. For instance, your child could be experiencing the following:

  • Feeling enraged, or envious that he has to share you with his new step-parent
  • May be jealous of his stepsiblings, or they might feel jealous of your child
  • Thinking you are at fault for breaking up the founding family.
  • Now that you have a companion, they may feel less significant.
  • Reject your spouse because he is a constant reminder that his parents will never reconcile.

It’s fine if you don’t know what to do if your youngster is unsure or negative about your new position. The most essential thing is for your child to understand that all of her feelings are normal and that you will always love and support her.

As your family grows, it’s critical to continue spending quality time with your child regularly so they feel just as important as they did before the new blended family.

Rivalry Between Siblings

In a nuclear household, it’s difficult enough for a child to compete with siblings. The problem can become even worse when it comes to step-siblings with whom they aren’t completely at ease.

That transition period might be a little longer for a child who hasn’t had to share a parent in a long time.

First, talk to your spouse about sibling rivalry so you’re both on the same page. If one of you blames the other’s biological child for the divide, nothing will help. You’re more likely to have issues if you have distinct discipline techniques.

All the children should have the same consequences and rewards, so both parents must be on the same page.

Next, keep in mind that your children may feel more like strangers than siblings in some ways. As a result, don’t expect everyone to be one big happy family right away. It will take some time to get there.

Recognize the potential for resentment if there was a change in birth order, such as one child who was formerly the oldest is now caught in the middle.

The eldest child may have felt like they had a little piece of authority taken away from them, while the former baby of the family may have felt like they’ve lost the attention they once enjoyed.

Labeling your children is also a bad idea. Even good labels might cause family members to become tense. Make the point that everyone has a variety of abilities and talents, and it’s healthy to continually learn new things.

Positives of Step and Blended Families

The burden of one or both parents can be relieved by combining two families.

Single parents going through a divorce or the death of a spouse understand the challenges of parenting alone and sometimes find solace in having a partner.

They may not have a lot of couple time, but they can lean on each other for support. A blended family’s success is determined by elements such as the quality of the new marriage.

Because children benefit from seeing their parents who are less stressed, happy parents can promote happier children. A joyful remarriage serves as an excellent example of marital connection for children.

Solving Issues

Children raised in blended households grow to be more adaptable and deal with conflict more effectively. Because of their new living circumstances, they must adjust to new people and surroundings.

They may not readily adjust to their new conditions therefore they must learn to compromise. These kids are prone to developing strong problem-solving abilities.

Their extended family gives them more role models to provide instruction and set positive examples.

Blended Families Can Aid In the Development of Resilience.

Today, resilience can be hard to come by. The ability to recover from sorrow, conflict, or despair is an essential talent for everyone.

In a blended family, there will always be feelings of loss and conflict to overcome. These problems are unavoidable at home.

Difficult events teach us how to stay cheerful even when things appear hopeless. Teaching children how to go through these processes can provide them with life lessons they can apply for the rest of their lives.

Financial Assistance

Blended families can offer their children a more stable financial foundation. Single parents frequently struggle to make ends meet and may lose a significant amount of money as a result of divorce or the death of a spouse.

When parents remarry, their combined finances might give the family a sense of stability. According to Education.com, increased money leads to more options and less stress related to financial concerns.

More Compassionate Family Members

Children in a blended family have more loving, responsible people in their lives. New siblings provide playmates and companionship for a lone child.

Working parents, grandparents, and other relatives can provide child care. They can also give a network of support to help the youngsters grow and learn. Grandparents can tell stories and share experiences.

More family members equal more affection, which is a tremendous benefit to any youngster.

Conclusion

Blended families can be difficult, but taking the time to prepare yourself and being aware of the obstacles can significantly reduce a potential disaster. The time and effort that you invest into learning how to prevent common blended family mistakes will help ensure the success of your new family.

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