Blended families, by their very nature, face far greater challenges than a traditional bio-family. You are trying to blend one bio-parent with a step-parent knowing there is usually another bio-parent out there that is also part of the equation. In many cases, each spouse in the new blended family is both a bio- and a step-parent. There are a great many variables in this equation that can and frequently do change. The ex-spouses often have very different views on how to raise the children as do both of the spouses in the new blended family.
When most relationships terminate, it’s rare for both parties to remain friends. It happens, but usually the reasons for terminating the relationship were based on negative circumstances and the parties simply can’t stand each other any longer. It’s a real blessing for all involved (including new spouses) when bio-parents can remain civil with each other even after a divorce.
Disagreement over parenting is the second most common area that leads to failure in a blended family. The first most common thing is finances. Included in the parenting arena is the influence of the ex-spouse/bio-parent on the way you do things. Very often, as the children are shuffled back and forth to each parent’s house, the rules the kids have to abide by are extremely different. It’s human nature for the bio-parent that has the kids for the shortest amount of time, to want to be the “fun parent”.
The fun-parent is more about being friends than a parent and they never want to be the bad guy that has to enforce rules. They don’t want to risk the kids getting upset with them and not want to spend time with them. This always makes it tougher on the parent that has the majority share in custody of the children. Parenting is an issue that should be taken very seriously and hopefully a great deal of time is spent discussing and reaching agreement on how to handle all the children prior to making the blended family official.
When there is a large variance in the discipline structure between the two households, the result is invariably conflict in one, but usually both, households that share the children. Another major issue that leads to conflict is the notion of ownership of “your” kids. In a blended family, it takes two people seeing all the children as “our kids”. An old proverb says, “A house divided against itself can not stand.”
When there is ownership of the children, there is by definition, division in the house. As one bio-parent sees how the new step-parent is dealing with ‘their’ kids, they often disagree with the disciplinary tactics. The new step-parent’s tactics are either too severe or it seems they aren’t doing enough. It’s also a big challenge to alter your mindset to love your new spouse’s children as much as you love your new spouse. It doesn’t happen over night, but it’s something you can choose and learn to do over time. The goal should be YOURS + MINE + OURS = OURS. Having a different set of rules for each group of children in a blended family is a sure-fire recipe for failure.