Blended Families

Blending is difficult. Roles and boundaries are easily blurred and even the best intentions can be misread. Challenging “normal” behaviors are often interpreted as being due to being part of a blended family when in fact many of these behaviors are often normal and expected patterns. Children test both parents and stepparents. The reasons for a behavior are often buried deep and due to a confluence of issues relating to attachment and fear of being abandoned.

Common behaviors include temper tantrums, aggressive behavior or avoidance behaviors. Separation and divorce cause anguish for children. These behaviors are often a reflection of a child’s own feelings and his or her own perception of self.

Your best approach is patience and not overreacting. Time is a great healer and showing your love and concern in clear, consistent and concise ways is best. Do not take it personally if a stepchild wishes to keep you at a distance. Stay non-judgmental and be sincere and honest in your interactions. Do not hide your feelings and always be clear that you do not plan to assume the role the child’s biological parent.

The sharing of mutual interests and activities will help build a relationship with your stepchild. Allow time to build the trust each of you will need. By understanding the importance of respect and mutual acceptance you will be laying the foundation for future successful interactions. At all times remember you are married to the parent of the child, and you are not married to the child.

Always be ready for episodic flare-ups of mistrust and doubt. The separation and divorce of parents is difficult for children. When a parent remarries fears of separation and abandonment often resurface. If such issues do not lessen with love and patience then formal counseling may be necessary. The earlier intervention is pursued, the less chance toxic stress will infect the entire family.