Step Families and Blended Families Have Special Challenges to Overcome

Blended families are increasing all over the country and world as people divorce, remarry and pull their children along for the ride. In the US, blended families account for about 18 percent of families with children according to the Census Bureau:

Overall, 16 percent of children lived with a stepparent, stepsibling or half sibling. Thirteen percent of children living with one parent and 18 percent of children living with two parents lived in these blended families.

Most children (78 percent) lived with at least one sibling. Among those, most (83 percent) lived with only full siblings from the same biological mother and father. Fourteen percent of children who lived with siblings lived with at least one half sibling, sharing only one biological parent.

(The statistics for black families are significantly different than this average.) Blended families can be difficult because they can mean greater financial outlays for one or both adults in this new relationship – if there are additional children, for example, and if one parent does not work. This can be stressful to the new relationship in particular if there is child support and maintenance that are being paid to a previous spouse.

Not only that but there is the issue of whether everybody in the new blended situation are going to get along and whether there is compatibility or whether there is fundamental incompatibility that is going to be consequential. That is, do extended family members accept the new spouse? Do the children get along with children of the other spouse? Does the new spouse get along with the children? Or is there a tug of war? Often, there is a tug of war unfortunately and this leads to a high failure rate of blended families.

Furthermore, being a step parent can have its own challenges that if not properly managed can lead to enough conflict that the marriage disintegrates. Because, for example, there could be a difference in parenting styles that is so radical that it creates a shock to the system of the original family and could rock the new relationship to its core, and ultimately its demise.

On top of that, the upheavals could be an issue, for example having to move the blended family to a brand new location could entail changes that members of the family find hard to adjust to.

The key to success is flexibility and adaptability. And this is going to be on all the sides of this octagonal new family. It cannot be just one person or one side who makes all the adjustments and who tries to accommodate everyone else. Even in terms of extended family members, folks will have to want the relationship to work and provide a support system to enable it to work.

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