3 Ingredients for Successfully Blending Families

Blended FamiliesBlended families and the challenges associated with them have been the focus of many a Dr. Phil episode through the years, due in part to the growing number of them.

A December 2015 Pew Research Center report showed that 40 percent o
f families with children are blended, meaning that they include a combination of stepparents, stepsiblings, half-siblings, and sometimes even extended family members.

“Our family law practice sees the making and dismantling of these types of families on a routine basis,” says John Griffith, an Encinitas divorce lawyer.

Griffith offers this advice for couples that have blended families:

1. Forgive.
Divorce is a painful experience for everyone involved, and the hurt can take years to go away. Past hurt can interfere with a new marriage. Learn to forgive former spouses so you can avoid speaking about them negatively in front of your children. Learn to forgive your new spouse’s ex, so you can avoid speaking poorly of them in front of your stepchildren. Don’t saddle the kids with comments that can’t be unheard or easily forgotten.

2. Don’t play favorites.
This can be tough, because biological ties are strong. You can feel closer to your own children without outwardly showing it. As the parents of this blended family, the two of you can identify principles to guide your parenting. Examples might include: “Every child in our family is worthy of love,” or, “Every child in our family deserves to be heard and understood,” says evangelist Jim Daly, who writes for the UExpress blog.

3. Nurture individual relationships.
Reaching “one big, happy family” status isn’t achieved overnight. Relationships and trust must be built, and this is best done one-to-one, according to Hand in Hand Parenting. If you’re the stepparent, set aside up to an hour each week for individual time with your stepchild, where you let them do something they want, and you avoid instructing or critiquing. Instead, you simply offer appreciation and respect. Make one-to-one time with your own children, too.

Learning some tools to successfully blend your families is important, because sadly, statistics are not on your side, Griffith says. Studies show an increase in the divorce rate with each successive marriage. Blended families have a one in three chance of survival, and the odds decrease when more children are born into the family, according to a Chronogram article.

Statistics about Blended Families

  • Four in 10 American adults have at least one step relative in their families, according to a national Pew survey.
  • Three in 10 adults surveyed by Pew from Oct. 1-21, 2010 have a step or half sibling.
  • 52 percent of adults under age 30 report that they have at least one step relative, compared to 40 percent of those who are 30 and older.
  • 60 percent of black adults have at least one step relative, compared to 46 percent of Hispanics and 39 percent of whites.
  • 45 percent of black adults report having at least one step or half sibling, compared with 26 percent of whites.

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