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Raising A Child In A Blended Family

Apr 20, 2008
A blended family, or step family, is one that includes an adult couple with one or more children from a previous relationship. The couple may be married or unmarried. Half of all people in the United States will experience a step family relationship at some time in their lives-as a stepparent, remarried parent, or stepchild. Since many children in the United States will end up experiencing blended families, it is important to discuss how a child can live in a blended family and enjoy it. Whereas in blended families, children might gain "instant" brothers and sisters, it is important to ensure that they are given time to adjust to it and also express their feelings regarding their "new" step-mom or step-dad and also the siblings. Being part of a blended family can be a difficult experience for a child because they might feel that they are left out of their Dad or Mom's life. Therefore, the natural parent of the child might want to ensure that they set aside quality time between them and their child in the blended family. This will ensure that the child gets the quality attention that may have existed before they became a blended family.

A child in a blended family has strong emotional connections to a parent who lives in another household or to a parent who has died. In many cases, a child moves back and forth between two households that often have very different rules and expectations. This adjustment period can be even more stressful than a divorce or living in a single-parent home. Children may feel angry, anxious, or depressed because a parent's remarriage eliminates the hope that their mother and father will reunite. They worry that they won't be able to have as much contact with either parent.

Step families in which both adults have children from a previous relationship have the biggest problems to overcome. Children in such families may worry that their own parent will have less time to spend with them, that they will have to share their bedroom or possessions with a step sibling they hardly know, or that their place in the family hierarchy will change (for example, from being the oldest or youngest in the original family to being a middle child in the step family). Rules and daily routines may be different. All these new experiences can put stress on a child. Many remarried parents, who are caught up in their own romantic relationship, may not notice how disturbing the changes can be for their children.

During this period, your child may display his or her feelings through disruptive behavior. For example, your child may become withdrawn; angry or defiant; disruptive or destructive; have frequent temper tantrums or fight with siblings, step siblings, or friends. He or she may also perform poorly in school. Give your child time to adjust to the current situation, to become familiar with the new family members, and to get used to the working structure of the household. Step families who work together to solve problems eventually find a living arrangement they can all be happy with. Once you make it through the difficult early years, you will probably find that being part of a step family is a rewarding, enriching, fulfilling experience.
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