There is no family that does not require blending. When two people get married for the first time there is a blending of two lives together. If those two people have children, there is a blending of those relationships. Each of these situations bring certain challenges when speaking of blending individual lives together into a family unit. Usually, however, when we use the term blended in relation to family units we are talking about pieces of different family units that are coming together to form one family unit. Most often it is due to a death or divorce.
There are some unique challenges that come from blended families. Over the last 50 years, blended families have become more commonplace. If blended families are a reality, it is important for us to understand some of the challenges that naturally come with blending families. If we better understand the challenges and use the resources available to us, we can create better family units no matter the circumstances. Here are four challenges I have identified that will help us when blending family units together.
Almost always when families are being blended together there is some type of brokenness involved. The brokenness may have come because of divorce or death or some other circumstance, but invariably there are struggles with brokenness. Occasionally family units have taken some steps toward healing by going to counseling or some type of therapy. Most of the time however blended families are filled with people who are still broken from a previous relationship or situation. This brokenness brings challenges to the new family and often the other parties are not aware of the brokenness that resides inside the other members of the family, they only see the results or the symptoms which can then create new conflict and sometimes more brokenness. It is critical that blended families find healing individually so the blended unit can succeed.
We all have it. We bring baggage into every relationship we have. Some people come with only a duffle bag while others come with an entire moving truck full. What that baggage looks like can be different for everyone. It may be certain behaviors that have taken it’s toll in our past relationships or it may be a response we have towards others’ treatment of us. It may be destructive habits – known or hidden. It could be misguided beliefs or events that have shaped us or affected us in some way or a failure that has seemed to become our internal identity. When previous relationships are involved, marriages or parents of children who we did not marry, those relationships invariably cast some type of shadow on the next relationship. The truth is that we all have some baggage. What is most important in family relationships is that transparency and honesty are created. When these things are present, the people with whom we are in relationship can better understand how to make the relationship better and how to deal with the issues that are present.
This one is often the obvious one and in certain situations the most difficult to overcome. Love can certainly overcome and create a great family environment. There are plenty of examples of that, but we often acknowledge, and even emphasize the contrary right out of the gate by using words like stepparent or stepchild. Children often refer to their non-biological parent by his/her first name instead of mom or dad and the parents use words like “my kids” or “your kids”. Rarely are these terms used with affection, but rather most commonly in blame. Though some of these things can be said without damage, we must understand the lines that are drawn and the difficulty it can create. Biology is a powerful force so families must be intentional to create environments where biology can be conquered by love.
You were probably expecting a word that started with B but I can’t illiterate everything. The last challenge is the influence of people from previous relationships. A child goes from having two parents to sometimes four and two sets of grandparents to four sets of grandparents. Sometimes this can be beneficial, but many times it is not. Parents who could not see eye to eye while as a family unit find it even more difficult when apart. Once the influence of a new spouse and their children enter into the equation, a new set of challenges are created for the blended family. Each family unit must work together for the best environment possible in spite of past pain and hurt in their previous relationship.
Blended families are a reality and healthy blended families are possible. One of the ways we can create those healthy units is by understanding the difficulties they present and working diligently to heal and overcome them. All families require focus and concentration. Do not allow the challenges you may face in a blended family to create discouragement and cause failure. Be aware of them and work diligently to overcome. The rewards of a healthy family are worth it.