After a break-up, most people eventually find a new partner. If either one or both of them have children, they form a blended family. And after a while, the new partners may also have one or more children of their own.
The dynamics of a blended family are quite different from that of a nuclear family, in other words a family in which both partners are the parents of all the children. It means different loyalties, values, parenting styles and backgrounds that are usually not aligned.
Disagreements can arise about rewards, punishments, boundaries, school choices, screen time, parties, vacations, and the role of family. Thorny issues also include whether partners are allowed to discipline each other’s children, how arguments are conducted and how to deal with different moral/religious views. Relatively simple things can become a minefield, not least because of all the emotions.
In a blended family there is often jealousy, guilt and sadness about the loss of the nuclear family (due to divorce or death), but also anger when your own child is disciplined by the other person. In addition, partners must bond with the other person’s children and family, who in turn must bond to the other children and family, while the unconditional love associated with a blood connection is missing.
In addition, the other ex-partner has a lot of influence. When former partners are not okay with each other, children are thrust into a loyalty conflict. This hurts them profoundly – whoever side they choose, they are never loyal to both parents – and makes it difficult to bond with newcomers.
Children often lack words to describe these problems and instead express them through their behaviour. Unfortunately, a child is then seen as problematic, while the source of the ‘problem’ actually lies in the strained relationship between the adults.
This not only causes stress, but also erects formidable barriers. On average, it takes four to seven years for the blended family to stablise and for everyone to get used to their new place. And more than 60% of blended families fall apart within five years.
Therapeutic support can make a real difference in the quality and viability of the blended family. Especially when it is supervised by two therapists who themselves have personal experience with a blended family.
When we support blended families, our main focus is on the adults: initially the two new partners, but if required the other biological parents are also involved as well.
Because each blended family is unique, we make a tailor-made plan based on a thorough intake. In broad terms, we map out the history of all partners, we look at the needs and emotions of each family member, and work with the partners to solve problems and improve relationships.
When you feel the need for guidance for your blended family, just contact us.