Blending Families

Sometime after parents divorce they are likely to meet someone else who may or may not have their own children. Either way, the ensuing relationships are likely to be complicated. All of the individuals involved will have connections and loyalties to current estranged family members as well as some emotional scars from previous relationships, dynamics and/or events. In the beginning of blending families, they are like so many jigsaw puzzle pieces that don't fit together. Some children's loyalties to their noncustodial parents make it difficult for them to accept step parents. Conversely, parents who have lost the primary custody of their children may feel guilty about raising other children or having subsequent children as if this somehow constitutes a type of abandonment of their original children. Those mixed loyalties, prejudices, predilections and biases are then in turn likely to become the basis for favoritisms, animosities, jealousies and resentments. At these times blending families may ask for help. The counselor's role is to understand the history and relational standing of everyone concerned and assist the parental figures in establishing the optimal family unit.

The parents should exclusively share the ultimate decision making responsibilities regarding the family. The children should all have reasonable access to the parental figures. This access, except in matters of emergency or abuse, should not trump the parents discussing issues, conferring with or supporting one another.

The difficulties encountered by blending families are sometimes due to the blending phenomenon and other times due to previous relationship problems not being resolved prior to the blending. For example, if a teenager had dominated a parent's authority in the prior family relationship they may encounter a conflict with a step parent in the new situation. The decision of how this will be handled is the perogative of the parents. A successful blending of families is the result of a great deal of effort, patience and love on everyones part.