After a separation or divorce many children will spend some years living in a single parent household, however more than two thirds of adults will eventually enter a new relationship, this results in what is referred to as a blended family (Fanshawe College, 2013). This is defined as a relationship consisting of a biological parent, a stepparent, and children from one or both of those parents.
Adapting to Change
Children often adapt and are more open to new relationships than adolescents. Adolescents will often challenge the authority of new parents and new family dynamics. Realistic expectations need to be made from all involved, the blended family can work if care and commitment is made by all individuals. There are complicated relationships involved in a blended family and all parties must feel heard, loved, appreciated and that their feelings matter. Jealousy, loyalties, and complicated relationships will exist, this is inevitable. As time passes children will adjust to the new way of life and their new blended families. If the marriage is happy, the children will always benefit from their present parents. Typically, children in blended families compared to those of intact families do less well in school and experience more symptoms of depression. Child Development An Early Years Perspective (Fanshawe College, 2013) states, “Unfortunately, second marriages are slightly more likely than first marriages to end in divorce breakdown, particularly when stepchildren are involved” (p. 64).
My Childhood Experience with a Blended Family
I was raised in a blended family myself from the age of 10 or 11 when my father entered into a new relationship. I can tell you from personal experience that it is not always easy to navigate, and we did not always have a good relationship with one another. The siblings would be at odds quite frequently and the relationship between my biological siblings and our stepmother had its own challenges. My dad often chose his wife’s side in a disagreement over his children. This caused a great deal of strain on our relationship, but he was trying to ensure his relationship and subsequent marriage was able to function and be healthy. While we resented our stepmother at times for the attention our father was giving to not only her but her children as well, we still loved our dad. My dad would often try harder with the stepchildren than with his own children since he was trying to establish that new relationship. This led to us feeling our relationship with our dad was under nurtured. We have had many conversations throughout the years to express how we felt and sometimes he listens and other times I feel he thinks we are being dramatic.
My Adult Experience with a Blended Family
I also now live in a blended family myself with my wife having children when we began a relationship. This has been an adjustment and still is, with me trying to navigate the relationship between myself and my bonus daughters. It is hard for me to determine where and when I need to engage in direction with discipline and their behaviours because I am not their biological father. However, in the aspect of being there and showing the children love and devotion, I put in an excellent effort. I consistently show up and support them for sports games, concerts, school functions and whatever they need. Sometimes this is hard because I don’t want to take over their father’s role, but I also want them to know that they can always count on me to be there for them. Now that my wife and I have a child together, I do my best to not show my biological son more love than I do for my bonus daughters. He is still an infant and needs more time and attention and I do a lot for him. However, my wife and I have had conversations about not showing favouritism and making sure everyone feels valued. For example, at bedtime when I am putting him to bed and my wife puts the girls to bed, I make sure that I say goodnight even if they are almost asleep because this shows the girls that I love and care for them just as much as I do my son. Navigating a blended family can be complicated but these relationships bring many benefits that strengthen my family unit.
Fanshawe College. (2013). Child Development An Early Years Perspective. Pearson Learning Solutions.