Any couple involved in a remarriage can tell you there are definitely some complicating factors.
Extended family is even more extended. There are typically at least three people involved in parenting decisions, if not more. Visitation with the other parent involves consulting more schedules, and co-parenting is often complicated.
Here are some blended family facts from Pew research and others:
- 42% of adults (102 million) have a steprelationship, and when you add the 11.6 million stepchildren in the U.S. (16% of all kids), an estimated 113.6 million Americans have stepkin.
- 52% of married/cohabiting couples with at least one living parent (or parent-in-law) and at least one adult child have a stepkin relationship.
- 52% of “sandwich” generation couples have at least one stepparent or stepchild.
- The percentage is even higher for younger households, with 62% of married/cohabiting couples under age 55 having at least one stepkin relationship in the three generations.
- 4 in 10 new marriages involve remarriage.
In many instances, children find themselves trying to navigate two worlds, attempting to understand why they have to follow different sets of rules at each house. Sometimes parents talk badly about the other parent in front of their children. It can very quickly become confusing and complicated for the children.
“Parents have to remember and accept the fact that while they can end a marriage to someone, they will never stop being parents,” said Ron Deal, speaker and author of The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family.
“While you may be relieved to be out of the marriage, your children have been in a transitional crisis. How well they recover from that crisis has a lot to do with you. The key to successful co-parenting is separating the dissolution of your marriage from the parental responsibilities that remain.”
Deal says that children can successfully adjust to the ending of their parents’ marriage and can fare reasonably well if:
- the parents are able to bring their marital relationship to an end without excessive conflict;
- children are not put into the middle of whatever conflicts exist; and
- there is a commitment from parents to cooperate regarding the children’s material, physical, educational and emotional welfare.
“I do realize that many ex-spouses have great difficulty cooperating about anything, let alone the nurture and discipline of their children,” Deal said. “That does not absolve you of the responsibility to try. Your children deserve your best effort.”
Although blending two families together comes with plenty of challenges, Deal wants to give stepfamilies the keys to unlocking some of the most difficult struggles they face.
Deal helps families answer some of their most common questions, such as:
- Should we develop new family traditions together?
- Are my boundaries and influence different as a stepparent?
- How do I make sure no one feels left out or unheard?
- What about dealing with ex-spouses? Are there dos and don’ts?
- Sometimes, our “blended family” feels awkward. Will it ever feel normal?
- Our marriage often takes a backseat to figuring out the stepparent dynamic. How can we stay connected?
Your blended family can grow, learn and become stronger, no matter what season you find yourself in. Work together to develop a game plan - one that builds connection and intimacy at home while keeping your marriage strong,