Challenges faced by blended families.
Many people are unprepared for the complex and difficult challenges faced by blended families. This lack of preparedness can be due to:
- Unrealistic expectations
- Vastly different parenting styles
- Unresolved emotional distress from previous marriage breakdown
- Children’s unmet emotional needs
These unresolved problems can cause marital tension and overall unhappiness.
Some common challenges
Some of the common challenges that a blended family faces include:
- Disparate parenting styles: Partners come together having developed their own parenting styles that were effective with their ex-spouses. It is very common for partners in a blended family to have different parenting styles and to have disagreements about expectations and responsibilities in a household. It is also difficult to express a negative opinion about the other partner’s parenting style without being critical.
- Ex-spouse relationship: Many ex-spouses worry that their parental position will be taken over by the new partner. They may become unnecessarily guarded and apprehensive or even try to interfere with the blended family’s routines, parenting styles and rules. A parent’s criticism can also cause the children to misbehave and to show their loyalty to the absent biological parent.
- Blended sibling rivalry; it is common for siblings to complain about unfair treatment or favouritism by a parent. In blended families, children tend to be more sensitive to their parent or step- parent showing more affection to a stepsibling. Parents can help by spending time and effort to get to know their stepchild individually and also be seen to be fair in their approach.
How a psychologist can help?
It takes time to build a blended family. You may also need new skills and knowledge to raise a blended family. Under the best conditions, it may take 2 to 4 years for a new blended family to adjust to living together, and boys appear to accept a stepfather more quickly than girls. Your psychologist can help you learn effective strategies appropriate to the psychological needs of the child at each developmental stage.