A union that brings with it the 'ready-made‘ family can present many challenges. When blending two families, that may have different lifestyles, different food habits and different rules, into one strong and cohesive family, it takes patience, love, respect, flexibility, tolerance, time and commitment to form solid relationships. According to the American Psychological Association, it may take two to four years for a blended family to adjust to each other under the best of circumstances.
Blended families tend to have four major challenges, which can shape the nature of problems that may come up in relationship building:
- Every member of the blended family has suffered a loss.
- The parent-child relationship pre-dates the couple's relationship.
- Children may move between two separate households.
- The other biological parent and relatives may have influence over the blended family.
As your family begins to deal with the adjustments and demands of building a relationship, it is important to acknowledge these challenges and deliberately develop strategies to address them. Here are a few tips that may give you and your family a more positive start in creating ways to ease the transition.
Tips for healthy blending
- Set up clear, safe boundaries within the blended family. One challenge to forming a cohesive family is establishing trust, and an important part of building trust among family members has to do with discipline. Discuss the roles you and your spouse will play in disciplining your children and determining household rules.
- Keep all parents involved. If possible, children should have access to both biological parents to form a parental partnership, which will let children know that both parents love them and will continue to be there for them throughout their lives.
- Communicate often and openly. Families that have open and frequent communication increase their opportunities for family connections. One great way you can create a positive line of communication is through family meetings. The Military OneSource article Communicating with Children offers tips on casual conversations, as well as strategies you can use to discuss family issues or resolve conflicts.
- Use routines and establish family customs. Sitting down to dinner together every evening and talking about everyone's day not only gives the family a way to bond with each other, but it also encourages healthy routines. Create shared experiences such as planning birthday celebrations, scheduling family game nights or planning a family vacation together to help your family build their own customs and begin their own history with each other.
- Make time for each other. Blended families spend a great deal of time focused on the adjustments of the children. Focus on creating your strong marital relationship, which will benefit everyone in the family. When children see love, respect and open communication between you and your spouse, they may feel more secure and have a positive model for family relationships.
If your blended family needs help building a strong relationship, you can contact Military OneSource online or by calling 800-342-9647 to speak to a certified counselor. Non-medical counseling with a counselor possessing a master's or doctorate degree is designed to address issues such as improving relationships at home and work, stress management, adjustment concerns (for example, returning from a deployment), marital problems, parenting, and grief and loss difficulties. Face-to-face, telephonic and online non-medical counseling is available at no cost to you, 24 hours a day, seven days a week from anywhere in the world. Take advantage of the many services available to help you and your new family blend together and form healthy, strong relationships.