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Feb 4, 2011

The Blender…I mean Blended Family

Children and Divorce

 Approximately 3 out of 5 families are raising children from a past relationship.

  • 70% of remarriages involving children will end in divorce within 5 ½ years.
  • Blending families is the greatest cause of divorce.

            Research shows that it takes about seven years for the average blended to come together as a family unit, not a great thing if most aren’t lasting more then 5 ½ years. One of the great enemies of a blended family is that we live in the age of instant everythingBecause of this Mom and Dad might assume that they will have “the Brady Bunch scenario” with their new marriage and new family. Sometimes they assume that because they love each other the kids will happily jump into this new blended family no work needed, think again.

When blending your family you need to remember a few things and work with those circumstances and ideas.

  • Children experience confusion, emotional turmoil, and fear when a parent remarries.  Ignoring these stressors in our children will not make them go away, quite the opposite; it can lead to behavioral problems as children often act out their feelings.
  • Tension between divorced parents is hugely upsetting to children. Children feel the tension between parents and they suffer when parents create problems, and don’t get along. Over time, children begin to resent feeling that way, get angry and may take their anger out on the new members of the blended family.
  • Clear and true boundaries are the best way to begin on the road to blending a family.  Some children will test the relationship between the parent and step-parent. They will break the rules, ask for exceptions and challenge parents to make a choice between them and the step-parent. Children need guidance, choices, consequences and supervision.  Teach them the 3 “R’s”, Respect, Responsibility, and Resourcefulness.  
  • Co-Parenting in a blended family takes ALL parents. It decreases the children’s chances of using any “divide and conquer” strategies against their parents. When parents present a unified front, the child realizes that EVERYONE is working together for their best interest.
  • Regardless of the approach to parenting, couples should never threaten the bonds between a parent and their child.

Great advice don’t you think?  Yes, I give myself very good advice I just very seldom listen to it.  No, truthfully, I entered my blended family with lots of beautiful dreams and very little real knowledge of how to make things work.  The outline above is simply what I have learned through much trial and error.  I have been stung by the shouts of “You’re not my mother!” and “Ya know things were really good for me and my dad before you came along!” OUCH!  But Wes was right I am not his mother, I just play one at his dad’s house.  And things were good before I came along…as a matter of fact they are still good.  John has suffered at the hands of my birth children too.  Thad was less then happy about giving up his position as “Man of the House”, MaryCat was really upset that John who is very much into healthy eating habits labeled our nightly ritual of ice cream before bed a no-no, and Maddie, well she still thinks he’s mean sometimes.  Blending families is not easy, and there were moments that I wondered what I had gotten us into, but for all of those moments there are a hundred moments that have made my life fuller and more beautiful; like at MaryCat’s graduation from high school when she asked me if I would take a photo of her and her two dads and John and Blake looked at her and smiled, when Thad was leaving for college for the first time and he hugged John and told him he loved him and he was the “Man of the House” now and they both laughed and hugged again, when the chain on Maddie’s bike popped off and she and John were having a bike clinic and he was teaching her how to fix it, and when Wes tells me he loves me.  I love my blended family even when it feels like we are in a blender, it is worth the work!

By Mattie Singer