FACTS FOR FAMILIES: Helpful Tips for Unifying a Blended Family | Health, Medicine and Fitness

I would like to share this article written by Eastern Illinois University graduate student Kayli Worthey.

Kayli says: While conflict is inevitable in all family structures, blended families face many unique challenges. Knowing what to expect can help resolve issues before they get out of hand. Growing up in a blended family was anything but simple.

I witnessed co-parenting arguments, legal disputes, scheduling issues, and even felt jealous of my step-siblings and territorial of my parents and home. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized the benefits of blended families. Every family reunion is filled with laughter, advice, support and above all love. Even though we don’t all share DNA, we are family and that is the best gift life can give.

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A blended family, also known as a blended family, is a family where at least one parent has children from a previous relationship, whereby the child(ren) are not biologically or adoptively related to the other spouse . Often, blended families are created after remarriage.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 42% of the 2,691 participating adults have a step-parent relationship that includes stepparents, stepbrothers or stepsiblings, or stepchild(ren). The Pew Research Center also found that 16% of children live in blended families where at least one member of the household is a step-parent, step-sibling, or half-sibling.

Blended families often struggle with issues such as communication issues, scheduling issues, disconnection and co-parenting. It’s inevitable to have problems like scheduling conflicts and miscommunication when you combine two separate families into one.

Feeling disconnected is very normal in blended families, especially at the beginning with ties between stepchildren, stepparents and step-siblings. Co-parenting is also a problem in stepfamilies, because not only are the parents parents in their household, but they are also parents with their co-parents in different households.

Children of blended families specifically struggle with jealousy, sibling rivalry, territorialism and changes in routine. When a blended family is created, the jealousy of brothers-in-law and parents-in-law who attract the attention of their biological parent is common. Rivalry with half-siblings and half-siblings is especially bitter if they feel like they are being compared to each other.

On top of that, children can often start to feel territorial when it comes to their physical objects like their room, their toys, and their parents. Their routines are also bound to change due to the addition of schedules from other siblings into the mix.

Challenges are common in blended families, but there are many different solutions that might work better for your family. Here are 12 ways to help unite your blended family:

1. Resist the urge to talk other co-parents out of their opinion – listen and absorb.

2. Remember that the main purpose of co-parenting is to put the child first by providing ongoing love and support from both parents together, as well as step-parents or other siblings involved.

3. Create family traditions unique to the new family, such as weekly family traditions or special annual summer holidays.

4. Make sure each family member has their own personal space and the objects they control.

5. If children must share rooms, make sure the children have an active voice by dividing the room and decorating it.

6. Create schedules for the use of family items like televisions, board games, and even the shower to avoid running out of items to share.

7. Encourage children to talk about their feelings and acknowledge them.

8. Spend quality time with individual children during the transition.

9. Encourage children to work with their siblings rather than compete with them.

10. Don’t compare children.

11. Try to schedule visits from non-custodial parents on the same weekend each month if possible.

12. Be organized and use a calendar. (Maybe even color-code it.)

For more information about University of Illinois Unit 19 programming and to read more helpful articles, visit our website at https://extension.illinois.edu/ccdms, call us at 217-345-7034 or contact Cheri Burcham at [email protected] edu Also visit the Family Files blog at https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/family-files

Cheri Burcham is the Family Life Educator at U of I Extension.

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