While you and your partner feel blissfully in love and that everything will simply work out perfectly, your respective children may feel very differently. It is unrealistic to expect there to be immediate fondness for your new partner and for your children to adapt readily to the new family context. Starting a new family bringing your children along, as well as your partner’s children means you are creating a ‘blended family’. This transition and new family context is another adjustment that your children need to get used to. It is a major transition for everyone, yourself included, to get used to.
Being prepared for the challenges you may face will help you and your children cope better with the transition. In this sense, having unrealistic expectations of yourself, your partner or your children may lead to more difficult challenges within your new blended family. It is important to fine-tune your negotiation skills and have open lines of communication, both between you and your partner as well as you and the children. Make sure that you have, or are, dealing with any emotional trauma from your previous relationship. Coming into a new relationship with old “baggage” can often make the transition that much harder. Seek professional help if need be. It is also important to be aware that you and your new partner may have very different parenting styles. Creating a new, blended, family may challenge your parenting styles and beliefs around parenting. It is important to respect the fact that you have different perspectives and use those negotiation skills to compromise a way forward. Challenges in blended families can also be intensified by your child’s emotional needs. Perhaps your child needs more attention from you, or requires firmer boundaries. Whatever the needs are, if they are unmet your child may struggle to adjust to the new family context.
Blended families pose challenges and take work, but they can work really well with open communication, negotiation, and understanding the needs of both the family as a whole, and the individuals who make up the family unit. If you have concerns, it may be helpful to talk with a psychologist.
While each family is unique, some of the more common challenges you may face as a newly blended family include:
- Grief and Loss: No matter how happy you are with your new partner and family, you may still struggle with the sense of loss of your previous relationship. No one plans on divorce and, despite the reasons for getting divorced, it is likely that you will grieve the loss of a relationship you once believed would last forever. This may pose a challenge in committing fully to your new relationship. If you are struggling to process the loss and move forward it may be helpful to seek professional assistance.
- Discipline and different parenting styles: Chances are you managed to nearly perfect your discipline strategies and parenting styles with your ex-partner. Now you are entering into a new union and both of you come with your own preferences and experiences. You may have different parenting styles, different perspectives on how to set boundaries for your children, and how to enforce those boundaries. The children in the family may also find it challenging to adjust to new parenting styles and boundaries that are being set in place.
- Scheduling: Running a household and a family is tricky enough on a normal day. With blended families you now add parental visits into the mix. It can become quite complicated and feel overwhelming. Try to encourage communication so that everyone feels as if their needs are being met.
- Space: If you and your partner are bringing your children to live with you, you may find there is a lack of space for the new size of your family. On the other hand if one partner does not bring their children, while the other partner does, there may be a struggle over territory between the children. Either way, space remains a common challenge for blended families.
- Finances: Finances are usually a point of contention in most families, blended or not. Negotiating how you use your money towards the family can be a tricky subject. It is really important to communicate openly about your concerns and expectations when it comes to the finances within the family as this can become quite an explosive point if not handled sensitively.
All families take work and blended families are no exception. Communication is key to managing some of the challenges a new blended family may face. If you have concerns, it may be helpful to talk with a psychologist.