4 Tips for Successful Family Blending
Although blended families are becoming more and more common, the unique difficulties around forming a new family continue to be a challenges experience for all involved.
Some common concerns from the parents include: How do you validate your new partner and your children without alienating the other? How do you create a bond with these new children? And for the children, how do they begin to cope with this new adult in their life while still trying to process the divorce? And… who are these new kids living in their house?
Here are some tips to support blending your family in a healthy and supportive way.
New Couple’s Bond is the glue!
The complex set of challenges ahead in blending a family requires a strong, united front. Ensure communication remains, open, respectful and safe between you and your partner. The commitment to maintaining a strong, healthy connection will support the both of you in addressing whatever problems that show up along the way.
Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries
Those first few months, and even years, will require boundary setting with people in your extended network. Firstly, being clear with your previous spouse around your needs and expectations will support the new relationships to formulate and crystallize. Boundary clarification may also be needed for past family members, friends and colleagues.
Additionally, clear communication around the expectations of your new family members will support initial anxiety as the family blends. For example, being open about how affection will be shown between new family members can be helpful in creating safety with one another. Boundaries between you and your partner may also be needed around discipline and parenting conversations with biological and step children.
Allow for Grieving
The grieving does not only happen for you and the end of your marriage. The grieving occurs for your children as well around the loss of the past family unit. This grieving may even extend to their prior home, extended family members, friends and connections in that prior version of their life.
Reactions to step-family formation is a response to insecurity of a family looking one way and then suddenly looking different. Behaviors in children can show up as an attempt to protect the fear of “will this happen again?”. The experience of loss and need for grieving will be increased if the divorce is high conflict.
You and your partner want to ensure you have support around you that will ground you when challenges are feeling tough or unmanageable. As the needs of each family members are likely to increase during this transition, engaging in family therapy can support the entire family system.
Family therapy for blended families allows the space for a professional to support the competing needs of each family member while normalizing the challenges of step-family formation. Additionally, the family can create new patterns of communication and connection in a healthy and intentional way.
Furrow, J., & Palmer, G. (2007). EFFT and Blended Families: Building Bonds from the Inside Out. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 26(4), 44-58. doi:10.1521/jsyt.2007.26.4.44
Stavrianopoulos, K., Faller, G., & Furrow, J. L. (2014). Emotionally Focused Family Therapy: Facilitating Change Within a Family System. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 13(1), 25-43. doi:10.1080/15332691.2014.