Today I want to talk about blended aka step families. The estimated number of blended families in America is approximately 40% with many of those being adopted or unmarried couples. In this respect the percentage is believed to be much higher than reported. In Maryland every three out of four families I know are blended. An estimated 45 to 50% of blended marriages end in divorce which is an unnecessary tragedy!
The first thing that blended families have to realize is that the dynamic is completely different than regular family.
How would I know? I not only grew up in, but was a blended family for four years as a stepmom. I expected there would be tension and a little bit of rebellion. I didn’t even expect to be accepted for the first year, but I thought, “We all want the same thing for the children and God gave me unlimited love. We will all work together for the sake of the children.”
I read all the books, watched all the videos, ask for a professional advice. I did everything I said I would do trying to make the situation as comfortable as possible.
So what went wrong!? We all had a different idea of how things should be; what each person’s role and responsibilities should be and a general anger for things that went wrong both past and during. We needed to sit down together as guardians, parents and family to share respectfully how we felt and come to an agreement as to what was best for the kids, but we didn’t.
It is very hard to be a part of a broken family dynamic whether the parents, the children or the step parent. It hurts deeply everyone involved, but the permanent damage you can put on your children (whether grown or not) is just selfish!
It takes everyone grown or child in that family to work together, but it takes the grownups to work together in front of the children for the children’s sake.
What should happen:
• Both parents have to sit the children down together and tell them the break up is not their (children’s) fault; they love them and will always be there for them, but are not getting back together.
2. The parental and behavior support should be reciprocated between all grownups involved.
3. There should have been a sit down with all family involved, parents, step parents and children explaining that the rules may be different in both households, but that they would be made to respect each house’s parents and rules. Those rules should be enforced.
4. Children should not be allowed to run to the other parent’s house when they got into trouble at the opposite house.
• That is not cooling off it is avoiding what they did and makes things worse!
5. Parents and Grownups should know each other’s rules and consequences at each house and support them in front of the children even if they disagree with those rules! Parents in the same house should always form a united front never disagreeing or removing a child from punishment the other parent has put them in as it breeds disrespect and bad behavior.
6. Don’t talk about the other parent/step parent at all, because children always accidentally appear when they are not supposed to hear things and it’s very damaging to them and the relationship with the person being talked about!
7. Be a good role model in front of the children. You cannot tell your children to listen to your rules when you don’t follow them yourself! It just does not work! “I’m a grown up” does not help the situation!
The damage we put on our children with our poor actions and words in any situation is permanent to them and our relationship with them. It causes issues with how they grow, think and work with not only us, but people in general. They may not act like it now, but trust me from experience the damage is there and they will have to live and cope with it. Don’t screw up their lives and happiness, because you are upset with your ex or life.. Seek help if you can’t control yourself, because these actions affect your children permanently!
My ADVICE: Think About The Kids First, but don’t feed into every whim or unrealistic desire they have! Kids have unrealistic expectations, anger, sadness and intolerance as a part of their healing process. Keep them moving forward by guiding them to acceptance of the facts. Get them a counselor or support group if they need it.
In my next article I will talk about grown-up blended family relationship dynamics and how to make it work.
Certified Pastoral/Financial Counselor, Life Coach And Reiki Practitioner