By Cian L. Brown
What comes to your mind when you think blended family? A “blended family” is a family that does not represent what previously was considered a “nuclear” family; this looked like the traditional family model in America several decades ago. You know, the one with the retro colored mom, dad, sis, and brother with the family pet standing on the front lawn captured with smiles and hands waving in the Pleasantville society. While the nuclear family still exists, the “blended” family population grows in modern society.
A “blend” is when non-traditional cultural ties are made between sub-groups. The most common blended families are step-; however I use the term to represent multiracial, single parent, step-, same sex couple families, and families with adopted children. I personally have experienced being raised in a blended family that consisted of half-siblings, step-parents, and step-siblings. I have several close relations with individuals who have experienced being in a blended family that looks very different from my blended family. Ultimately, there is a high need to understand what creating a blended family means and the impact it has on forming new relationships.
Relationships can be tough and take work without children in the mix, so blending families can be a long growing process that must be handled with careful deliberation and intention. First, it’s important a foundation is set between the couple. Often, I have worked with spouses/couples who haven’t confronted the only influence their upbringing has impacted them and created their cultural perception. This consists of values, interests, expectations, beliefs, etc. As the primary relationship, you will be each other’s support and for the entire family unit. Establish a network of security, which provides a safe environment for relationships to flourish. It takes patience, discipline, and trust to build this structure.
Each person in the family structure is trying to define themselves to a role. A common question is “how do I ‘fit’ into this family”. Communicate with respect to everyone. Connect emotionally and learn how to love each person uniquely. Allowing others to set the pace and not apply pressure assists in creating this safe environment. Some of the most difficult challenges are “rule setting”, what is acceptable and expected in one household or family differs from another. It is imperative children are provided with clear expectations that are met with structure and consistency. Offer encouragement, set boundaries and limits, and most importantly take time for self-care and maintaining the spousal relationship. This requires dedication and commitment, even if it means to forgive and repair after those difficult disagreeable moments.
The most common struggles we face as blended families are the relationships we create, even when they don’t seem to exist or begin to fail. The longing to be understood and eliminate the disconnection in our communication, emotional and cognitive awareness, and the role we carry with intention to change.
To learn more about how your family or relationship can benefit and grow to flourish contact Wisdom Professional Counseling for a free 15 minute consultation.