1. Children may have a difficult time adjusting to sharing their parents
Blended families end up having more children than there were in nuclear families. Children who were used to having all their parent's attention and time on them suddenly find their attention divided amongst other children. Learning to share the parent’s love, time, and attention may not be easy for some children. They may feel that their biological parent still ought to spend more time with them than with the other non-biological children.
Resolving these issues takes time and patience. This is how to go about it:
First of all, as a parent need to have this conversation with your child long before you start living under one roof with everyone else to prepare them for the changes ahead.
Encourage the kids to communicate their feelings openly. Acknowledge their feelings verbally and show them you understand how your having less time with them must be hard for them and reassure them.
Spend high-quality time with the children, connect with them through daily routines, and engage with them through activities they enjoy the most.
2. Sibling rivalry
It is normal to find competition amongst siblings, but this can increase and get bitter amongst non-biological siblings. Expect the kids to struggle as they strive to bond with the “stranger’s” children and establish a new order.
There are highly likely to be personality clashes if the children are older and can make independent decisions. Roles played by each sibling may also clash, like where one who used to be the most senior in their family suddenly finds themselves younger than the other siblings in the new family. Also, when the children's age groups vary widely, gelling can take quite some time and effort.
To proactively navigate this challenge:
You must first expect that there will be frequent fighting and not take this personally as a sign of failure in your parenting skills.
Encourage the children to be driven by their personal bests instead of competing with one another. Don't encourage any acts of rivalry but rather reinforce and praise acts of kindness between the kids.
Avoid comparing the kids against each other. Statements like “why can’t you be like him?” will only worsen the relationship between the children.
3. Identity confusion
Some mixed family dynamics can create identity confusion, especially for young children. For example, if a mom is a primary caregiver and she remarries, there are chances that the kids might become attached to the stepdad with whom they spend most of the time than their biological dad. This situation can be confusing to the kids. If their mom adopts the stepdad's last name while the kids keep that of their biological father, it might cause confusion with the kids tending to detach from their mom.
Have a conversation about the kids’ identity before you officially form the blended family.
Communicate the changes that are likely to happen to the kids and allow them to voice their concerns so you know how best to address them and help them adjust better.
If you plan on changing your last name, have a conversation with the kids about it first before making the change. They need to understand your rationale for the change; plan on how to explain it to them.
4. Lack of balance in parenting
It is easy for the partners with children and extended families to lean towards supporting their biological parents more than their spouses'. Where one partner works hard to extend their attention to both sets of children, they might end up feeling like their efforts aren't reciprocated by their partner in equal measure. Striking a balance between biological and stepchildren and ensuring equality between all family members is a special concern for most blended families.
To navigate this challenge:
Both partners need to proactively work to maintain a delicate balance between the step and biological children.
Learn how to reassure your biological children without neglecting or caving in to every whim of your stepchildren.
5. Routine & lifestyle differences
All families have their unique routines and lifestyle preferences. When you bring two families together, differences in values, habits, social etiquette, and responsibilities tend to get magnified. These differences can cause huge unanticipated conflict in stepfamilies. So much so that when the two families come together, they might not see eye to eye on core family values, even on simple things like TV habits and food routines.
Ideas on how a family should spend birthdays, holidays, and family vacations can vary widely. Such issues may seem trivial initially, but their recurrence may turn them into chronic points and sources of persistent conflict.
To solve this:
The blended family needs to establish its own set of rules and communicate them to all members. The consequences for breaking the set house rules should be clear as well.
Adjust as a family and set new holiday customs, needs, and traditions.
Set up periodic family meetings to discuss how the new rules and structure work for everyone. Listen to everyone's opinion and make adjustments where necessary.
6. Weak family bonds
When two families whose kids are older combine, it is easier for them to get disjointed since they never had the time to grow together and develop that emotional bond. Discontentedness can worsen things between the family members, seeing them grow apart with little or no attachments to their family.
You can work towards a cohesive family by:
Pre-blended family counseling can help bring family members together before officially blending them.
Creating unique family traditions based on what most family members have in common, like game nights and Christmas tree decorations, can help bring the family together.
7. The EX-Factor
If the ex-partner is still in the picture and the kids still need to spend some time with them, strengthening the bonds in the new family can be difficult. However, there are certain things that you might consider doing:
Have all the kids visit each other's non-custodial parents at a specific time each month so everyone in the blended family can foster bonds with them and avoid having subgroups in the blended family.
Have a plan where all kids visit their respective non-custodial parents on alternate weekends, so you have time to bond with the other kids while others are away.
8. Legal Disputes
There are legal issues that arise when a family separates. This is because several legal agreements are made relating to properties, finances, and custody. When another family comes into the picture, some changes may need to be made to the agreement. These changes may result in legal disputes that may also result in financial difficulties.
You can be proactive and make plans for this well in advance before moving in as a blended family.
Both partners can set up a consultative meeting with a lawyer to get clarification on the matter as well as financial estimates that may come with the adjustments and plan accordingly.
As much as possible, keep the kids out of the dispute.
9. Financial Difficulties
A blended family will see the number of children and costs associated with bringing them up increase. Other factors like legal fees might see finances at the disposal of the new family reduced. Issues of how much is to be spent on running the family, which side of the family receives more financial support, and how expenses will be shared amongst partners. Monetary issues also arise where there are a lot of assets involved.
Avoid all this and get your blended family started on the right footing. This is how:
Have a conversation on money matters, especially the handling of expenses, before officially blending the families.
Consult a financial advisor or seek ideas from friends and family on how to go about the financial matter.
Consult your lawyer if you feel you are paying too much or aren't receiving enough as alimony or child support.
10. Territorial infringement
One of the biggest challenges a blended family faces is territorial infringement. This is especially so when one family moves into the home of the other. Those that live there might feel like their territory is getting infringed on and feel threatened that the new family is taking over part of their personal space. On the other hand, the children who move in may feel unwelcome in this new home and feel like this new home and maybe feel like it isn't theirs. When planning to move in together as a blended family, try applying these tips:
If you move into the other family’s home, start from scratch. Move everyone from their bedrooms, parents included clear drawers and closets, and reallocate the rooms afresh.
If bedrooms aren't enough for everyone, try adding some more space by refinishing the basement or other areas in the house to convert them into extra bedrooms.
Allocate each family member their own space and keep it as equal as possible.