Blended Family Counselling
Are you living your own version of The Brady Bunch? Bringing two families together under the one roof can be challenging. The blending of ‘your’ and ‘my’ children into a new family is something that requires discussion and planning, ideally before the merging of families.
New couples sometimes make the mistake of assuming that because their chosen partner is a suitable person for them, their respective children will view their new parents in the same way. This view is patently simplistic and can often land the parents in hot soup!
There are many other potential challenges when forming a blended family. These include:
- blending estates and finances
- blending religious and spiritual values
- challenges with including the “new spouse” in decision-making about the stepchildren
- children feeling jealousy toward the other children
- children having loyalty issues between their natural parents and stepparents
- continuing relationships with friends and family members associated with past marriages
- ensuring the new marriage has appropriate time and attention
- entanglements, both positive and negative, with ex-spouses
- establishing the identity of the “new” family
- guarding against too high of expectations for the new marriage and family
- implementing rules and discipline - who does what
- jealousy of the stepparent toward the stepchildren
- ongoing interaction with ex-spouses
It’s important to become informed. Learn as much as possible on how to blend a family. With your new spouse, read books, browse the internet, use audio and video tools or attend workshops. Discuss together all the issues, including different parenting styles, how to handle conflicts, family rules (values and beliefs) and expectations.
It’s also vital to acknowledge and mourn losses and to give your children the chance to do so too. Children need encouragement to talk. Talk to your respective children about the loss of the original family and let them know that being sad is OK. Then allow them time to adjust. Invite them to contribute their thoughts into what they would like to see in their new blended family.
How Blended Family Counselling Helps
The success of your blended family depends on having a clear plan involving the co-operation of all family members. To do this requires new skills, discussions and a well-thought-out plan. Family counselling can be a great help in making it possible to harmoniously form such a plan in a way which includes everyone.
Discussions on expectations around parenting are particularly important, especially if parenting styles differ between the couple. Often it is sufficient for a new couple to work with a counsellor and, together, resolve or remedy whatever problems have surfaced. Sometimes it is helpful or necessary to have the step children in the counselling room to help change family dynamics, but involving children only occurs after working with the parents first and involving children or stepchildren in an age appropriate way.
At All Relationship Matters, our skilled family therapists have helped many blended families over the years. Here are some of our tips for success in a blended family:
- Don’t try to make the blended family a traditional one…It isn’t! Try to be realistic in that this is an adjustment and time of growth for everyone. Learn to be flexible in allowing all family members to work through their fears, anger, grief and adjustment to the new family unit.
- Don’t force relationships! Not everyone in the family may love everyone else. It is best to set up some ground rules for respect and kindness toward each other, but allow time for relationships to develop naturally instead of trying to force them.
- Be sure to nurture your marital relationship! It can be overwhelming blending two families and working through all the challenges. It is important to spend some time enjoying each other by going on weekly dates and making daily time for communication so you can have the strength and sense of oneness to face your challenges together.
If you are in a blended family or contemplating forming one and require some help, it’s good to know that this is quite the norm. Many blended families seek professional assistance. Navigating a blended family is hard work and can be overwhelming. To obtain the skilled blended family counselling that can make all the difference to your future as a new family please give us a call. We’re here to help.