Blended Families: How to Make the “Package Deal” Work for Everyone
Holly T. Meginniss, MSW, LSWAIC
Who doesn’t love a package deal? Even the computer that I type this on right now was a package deal; it came with a mouse and stuff to keep it clean, at a better price then a lot of the computers I looked at when I went to purchase it. It always makes us feel good when we get extra stuff for a great price.
There is another package deal that many of us have dealt with, one where love and friendship, as well as the opportunity to be a mentor is the added bonus to having met the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Today it is not uncommon for those relationships to be “package deals”; one or both partners come into the relationship with children from previous relationships. While the adults have found happiness, the children may feel that they had an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings, even if they are negative ones, about this new family that is taking shape. While the parents have the opening strains of “The Brady Bunch” theme and happily ever after on their mind, the children can be left feeling unhappy, uncomfortable, and unheard.
This is the reality of many relationship struggles with newly blended families; so much so that the strain of the children can become the wedge that splits the marriage for good. So how can a blended family survive and grow into a healthy, happy part of everyone’s life?
As you begin to plan a life with your new partner, it’s important to remember that you are not just committing to them, but to their children as well. It is never too late in a relationship to reflect on this commitment and how to honor it in a way that is accepting of all of the family member’s feelings, and yet does not take away from the expectations of respect and kindness to everyone. Some topics to consider may include:
- What do you and your spouse want your “family rules” to be? We create expectations in families as they grow that reflect the values that we want to instill in our children. Values of respect, kindness, dignity, and altruism become the foundation stones that the family grows on. It’s important that as the leaders of the family, both parents are on the same page with what are the important foundations for the family.
- Who is the disciplinarian for who? When bringing families together, there are immediate questions as to how discipline will be handled with each partner’s children. This can be particularly challenging when the kids become disrespectful and/or confrontational with the new spouse.
- How do we make time for ourselves? With the additional challenges of children, the stress on a relationship can become stronger, and the need to make time for each other that does not include the children more urgent. The challenges of visitations and the activities the children participate in can make this even more difficult.
All of these issues can be challenging, but not insurmountable. As a therapist with specialized training in Child, Adolescent, and Family Therapy, I work with many blended families who are able to come together in a loving way and learn new strategies for family togetherness. We are also putting on a workshop for building healthier marriages where I will be presenting on the topic of blended families. If you are interested in learning more about the workshop, please follow this link for more information http://healthycounselingcenter.com/marriage-counseling/building-healthier-marriages-workshop/
I am also a full time therapist who has appointments available from 8:00 AM in the morning to 6:00 PM in the evening, and some Saturday morning appointments. If you are interested in booking an appointment, please call Healthy Counseling Center at 509-466-6632.