Not so many years ago, many would describe a family as a mom, a dad, 2.3 kids with a dog and a white picket fence. Years before that, kids outnumbered their parents. In today’s modern family, parents outnumber the kids in the family. A mom, a dad and 2.3 kids has now become his, hers and ours. Today’s modern family has changed the dynamics of the family unit.
According to Ron Deal, a leading expert and counselor of blended families, there are 67 different blended family configurations. Widowed and remarried, divorced and remarried, never married with kids and married and so on. Although there are many unique blended family combinations the majority of the issues are similar at the foundation, but each family faces does face its unique challenges.
Why is it important to recognize and address the issues blended families face? Here are some statistics that may surprise you.
• 41% of first marriages end in divorce.
• 60% of second marriages end in divorce.
• 73% of third marriages end in divorce.
• 45% of women & 50% of men will remarry again within 5 years.
• 50% of re-marriages involve children from prior marriages under the age of 18.
• 2100 new blended families are started every day in the US.
• 42% of adults have a step-relationship. This is either a stepparent, a step or half sibling or a stepchild.
This translates to 95.5 million adults.
• 16.5 million step-dads in the US.
• 14 million step-moms in the US.
• Experts predict stepfamilies will be the most common type of family in the USA.
• Because of a lack of information, stepfamilies often struggle along, isolated from support and information, or trying to fit a nuclear family model. (Reference info for above stats at www.blendedandbonded.com)
Traditional counseling and marriage advice doesn’t always work for the blended family. Many times, the advice given to blended families is based on what is best for first time families, many times backfiring and causing even more turmoil and frustration. It’s not wise to assume that everything will come together effortlessly the moment you say “I do.” Counseling, coaching and mentoring geared towards a blended family focus should always be a part of the blending of a family. It is a great way to set the family up for success. If you are a single parent that thinks you will or are currently dating, please consider seeking counsel as well. Knowing what’s ahead before you get there will prepare you for the challenges ahead and equip you with the power to face them head on.
Ron Deal uses a great analogy of what works best for blended families. He suggests there are two ways to “cook” a stepfamily. One way is to take all the ingredients throw them in a blender and turn it on high. Bio-parent, step-parent and all the kids forced together at the same speed and consistency. This method is parent focused and is based on the the agenda of the parents. This method can be messy and dangerous. The best “cooking” method for a stepfamily is a crockpot. Crockpots use two things to cook: low heat and time. Carrots, potatoes, celery & meat are all put in the crockpot and cook at their own pace. Some will soften and cook quicker than others, much like different members of your blended family. Bio-parents and their kids are already bonded and closer than a step-parent and step-child. They need more time to bond. Cooking your stepfamily in a crockpot allows each person to decide when they are ready to become part of the family. Ron suggests it can take up to 7 years for a stepfamily to bond.
Stepfamilies must be willing to tolerate disharmony in their household. Adults, especially, must be willing to be ok with others not being ok. Be willing to keep your expectations in check. When expectations are managed, it’s easier to step back and look at the long term goals rather than the immediate need for comfort and peace. Decide what is going to matter, long term.
Priority number one must be your marriage. Although there is a natural tendency to protect and put your bio-children first because of their anger and insecurity, the marriage must be priority if you are going to weather the difficult early years and survive. Take advantage of the time the kids are with their other parent. Date your spouse!
Blended families can take a toll on you physically, mentally and emotionally. Self-care is very important to stay healthy and keep your family healthy as well. Be intentional about doing something to recharge yourself. Eat well, exercise, meditate or find a hobby. Do something that will help you decompress and allow you to give your best to your family.
Most of all, when you think you are alone in this crazy blended family world, know that there are many families just like you, facing some of the same day to day challenges you do. Find support, find community & find friendship to get you through the hard times. Celebrate the good times and know there is a payoff down the road for sticking together through the tough times. It is my hope, for you, that when your blended family is grown and the kids have their own families you can sit around the table and talk about all the memories you made together.
Amy and Eric Urbach married and became a blended family in 2006. Amy has two children and Eric, three. While everyone has a different story, Amy began to realize the issues and challenges blended families face and the need for basic tools and resources. Amy founded Blended & Bonded in 2011 after recognizing a need by the growing number of blended families for information to make blended family life easier. Amy is passionate about helping other blended families grow, connect and bond. You can connect with Amy here: