A blended family is formed when two people, one or both of whom have children from previous relationships, form a new relationship and decide to live together. Blended (or step-) families can include a mixture of children of both partners, children of one partner, and children of the current partnership. Blended families pose both benefits and challenges for those involved, and can take some time to adjust to. But with estimates of one in five families in Australia being blended (http://www.stepfamily.org.au/about/), it is a topic facing many adults and children in our communities.
The first two years within a blended family are usually the greatest time of adjustment including:
- Children adjusting to new living arrangements, new adults or caregivers and, possibly new schools.
- Adults adjusting to new children (if it is not their own joining the family), new parenting styles of their partner, new financial arrangements and also a new living space.
- Ex-partners and extended family members adjusting to the new situation, and arrangements around the children and co-parenting.
Benefits of a blended family can include:
- Extra support for family members. Step-parents can be a great support for children, step-siblings can help each other adjust and become great friends, and the addition of extended family members can also provide a supportive network for family members.
- Fun. New personalities, opinions, abilities and interests can add to family activities and daily life.
- Stability. The blending of families can be the beginning of a more settled period for some families, where family members know where they will be living, and with whom.
- Change. Some people find the changes associated with adjusting to a new family structure exciting, hopeful and positive.
When adjusting to the new situation it is important to keep in mind that the blended family does not start with a clean slate – it carries with it a history that needs to be taken into account.