Three Hurdles Commonly Faced By Blended Families (And How To Overcome Them)

If you've recently remarried and wish to foster a harmonious relationship between your spouse, biological children and stepchildren, you may find yourself faced with challenges. Resentment, step-sibling rivalry and conflicting ideas on parenting are a few common issues. Overcoming these hurdles isn't always easy, but it can be accomplished. Here is a set of challenges for your blended family to overcome:

1. Resentment of the New Step-Parent

When children are taken from an environment they've been accustomed to, accepting a new step-mom or step-dad isn't always an automatic response. It's especially difficult if the biological parent is suddenly out of contact. If your child shows signs of resentment towards your new spouse, what can you do to bring about acceptance?

For one thing, you shouldn't force your child to call your spouse Mom or Dad. Unless your child is comfortable with "Mom" or "Dad" and has requested using the new title, allow him or her to address your spouse by first name. Addressing your partner as "Mom" or "Dad" should happen because your child wants it to.

Here's a positive scenario: Billy has a solid relationship with his biological father who lives in another city. Billy continues to refer to him as "Dad", while he addresses his new stepfather as "Dad Joe". Such a situation works for many families.

On the other hand, if Billy's natural father doesn't play an active role in his life or is deceased, Billy might prefer to call his stepfather "Dad". Every situation is unique, and the child's feelings should be considered with sensitivity and respect.

One way to encourage acceptance of the new parental figure is to keep the lines of communication open. Speak with your child about the new situation and how he or she feels. Allowing the child to express concerns or fears may help resolve feelings of resentment.

2. Step-Sibling Rivalry

Issues with stepparents aren't the only problems among newly blended families. Step-siblings may be in opposition as well. When biological siblings argue it can be a headache for parents, but when the conflict involves step-siblings, the situation may become more complicated and frustrating. How can you keep the harmony?

You may find it's best not to interfere when the matter involves small squabbles. In some cases, letting the kids work it out themselves is the best solution. An exception to this rule is when bullying or physical aggression is involved.

In such a case, you need to make the children understand this behavior is unacceptable. Establish guidelines and rules, and reinforce the consequences for breaking them. Equally important, never take sides. Be impartial when listening to both sides of the story, and keep the rules and punishment the same for stepchildren and biological children.

3. Conflicting Ideas on Parenting

Perhaps you and your spouse are highly compatible and see eye-to-eye on important issues. Since blending your families, however, you've suddenly realized you have conflicting ideas on raising the kids. How can you come to terms? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Respectfully Agree to Disagree: Having dissimilar beliefs doesn't necessarily have to spell negativity. Realize there is no right or wrong on either part. Sharing two diverse styles may enrich a child's life. For instance, if the conflict lies in faith or religion, a child may learn to respect and follow both traditions.

  • Make Compromises: In some cases, compromise is necessary. Once you and your partner have recognized your parenting style differences, you must think of a way to compromise. Work towards your goals together to achieve happy, healthy and well-adjusted children. If the conflict involves child discipline, you can learn to compromise by gaining insight into your spouse's own upbringing. Have open-ended discussions on how the other was raised. Once you have a better understanding, it may be easier to accept and follow each other's theory on child-rearing.

Finally, if you need further guidance, don't be afraid to seek professional help. Seek out support groups for blended families. Hearing how other families have coped can offer new direction and hope.