Blended Families

In our world today there are more and more Blended Families trying to make it.  Because nearly 40 percent of marriages end in divorce and people remarry, children of divorced parents are forced to cope with a new blended family. 

The blended family is a very complicated situation to navigate for a parent who wants to create a happy home-- both for their child and themselves.

Making the transition into a blended family can sometimes breed conflict and resentments -- children may be uncomfortable with their new step-parent's disciplining techniques or they might fight incessantly with their new step-siblings. Other children may withdraw and turn inwards rejecting your help.

What makes a successful blended family?

Trying to make a blended family a replica of your first family, or the ideal nuclear family, can often set family members up for confusion, frustration, and disappointment. Instead, embrace the differences and consider the basic elements that make a successful blended family:

Bonding with your new blended family

Early in the formation of a blended family, you as a step-parent may want to focus on developing positive relationships with your stepchildren. You will increase the chances of success by thinking about what the children need. Age, gender, and personality are not irrelevant, but all children have some basic needs and wants that should be met as a precursor to a great relationship.

Children want to feel:


How children adjust to blended families

Kids of different ages and genders will adjust differently to a blended family. The physical and emotional needs of a 2 year old girl are different than those of a 13 year old boy, but don’t mistake differences in development and age for differences in fundamental needs. Just because a teenager may take a long time accepting your love and affection doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want it. You will need to adjust your approach with different age levels and genders, but your goal of establishing a trusting relationship is the same.

Young children under 10


  • May adjust more easily because they thrive on cohesive family relationships.
  • Are more accepting of a new adult.
  • Feel competitive for their parent’s attention.
  • Have more dailyneeds to be met.
Adolescents aged 10-14

  • May have the most difficult time adjusting to a stepfamily.
  • Need more time to bond before accepting a new person as a disciplinarian.
  • May not demonstrate their feelings openly, but may be as sensitive, or more sensitive, than young children when it comes to needing love, support, discipline and attention. 
Teenagers 15 or older

  • May have less involvement in stepfamily life.
  • Prefer to separate from the family as they form they own identities.
  • Also may not be open in their expression of affection or sensitivity, but still want to feel important, loved and secure.


Gender Differences - general tendencies: 

Dealing with differences in blended families

As you merge two families, differences in parenting, discipline, lifestyle, etc. may become more pronounced and can become a source of frustration for the children. Make it a priority to have some unity when it comes to household living, including things like rules, chores, discipline, and allowance. Agreeing on some consistent guidelines and strategies will show the kids that you and your spouse intend to deal with issues in a similar way. This should diminish some feelings of unfairness.

Recognizing the ways that stepfamilies are different can help you understand and accept some of the problems you’re likely to face in your new family structure, and can be an important first step in achieving a healthy blended family.

Some common differences in blended families

Strengthening a blended family

One challenge to creating a cohesive blended family is establishing trust. The children may feel uncertain about their new family and resist your efforts to get to know them. Learn not to take their lack of enthusiasm (and other negative attitudes) personally. It isn’t that they don’t want you to be happy; they just don’t know what it will be like to share their parent with a new spouse, let alone his or her kids. These feelings are normal.

Create clear, safe boundaries in blended families

An important part of building trust in a family has to do with discipline. Couples should discuss the role each step-parent will play in raising their respective children, as well as changes in household rules.

The following tips can help make this difficult transition a bit smoother:

Keep ALL parents involved

Children will adjust better to the blended family if they have access to both biological parents. It is important if all parents are involved and work toward a parenting partnership.

Communicate often and openly in blended families

The way a blended family communicates says a lot about the level of trust between family members. When communication is clear, open, and frequent, there are fewer opportunities for misunderstanding and more possibilities for connection, whether it is between parent and child, step-parent and stepchild, or between stepsiblings.

Uncertainty and worry about family issues often comes from poor communication. It might be helpful to set up some ‘house rules’ for communication within a blended family, such as:

Use routines and rituals to bond blended families

Creating family routines and rituals helps unite family members. Decide on meaningful family rituals and plan to incorporate at least one into your blended family. They might include Sunday visits to the beach, a weekly game night, or special ways to celebrate a family birthday. Establishing regular family meals, for example, offers a great chance for you to talk and bond with your children and stepchildren as well as encourage healthy eating habits.

Tips for a healthy blended family

Maintaining marriage quality in blended families

Newly remarried couples without children usually use their first months together to build on their relationship. Couples with children, on the other hand, are often more consumed with their own kids than with each other.

You will no doubt focus a lot of energy on your children and their adjustment, but you also need to focus on building a strong marital bond. This will ultimately benefit everyone, including the children. If the children see love, respect, and open communication between you and your spouse, they will feel more secure and may even learn to model those qualities.

When to seek help for your blended family

If, despite all of your best efforts, your new spouse and/or children are not getting along, find a way to protect and nurture the children despite the difficult environment. Hopefully, if the kids see and feel your emotional support, they will do their best with the situation.

It might be time to seek outside help if:

Finding a good resource in your area

It may take some time, but choose a resource that everyone in your blended family is comfortable with. A good connection with someone should result in some positive changes right away.

You can obtain referrals from:


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