Blended families come in all shapes and sizes. The most famous televised blended family is the Brady Bunch, which aired from 1969 to 1974, years before blended families became the modern norm it is today.
Blended families are nothing short of complicated.
Many issues arise in the blended family; buying a home to accommodate all the kids, managing shifting schedules, maintaining relationships with co-parents, etc. The extended family on both sides of the marital partnership is a factor as well. The extended families (defined here as mother/father in-laws, aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers) have a huge impact on your marriage and kids regardless of which time around it is for you.
Needless to say, there are many variables to manage in order to keep life balanced with his and hers kids.
How do I manage equality between all the children?
One issue that arises is fairness between the children of you and your partner. This issue has the ability pop up in so many ways, depending on your unique family system.
One possible configuration that I noticed in a recent post on Facebook that another mom was struggling with was how her family treats the child between her and her new husband versus the child she has from another marriage. Her in-laws go big for the new little girl they feel bonded to, but don’t show quite the same level of excitement for the child from a previous marriage. One good thing about this issue of fairness is that it is occurring outside the home of the children and the parents are on the same page.
What do you do when the family treats one sibling different than another?
Create boundaries! If your family or in-laws is treating one child different than the other because of blood relation, speak up. Before you say something, make sure you and your spouse are on the same page, make sure that you are in agreement that you think the children are being treating unequally and that you both would like to see a change. Define what you would like to see and not see and then present it to the family. Be a united front.
Here’s an example, if your family is throwing big birthday parties for the child they are blood related to but not for the child from the previous marriage, let them know that you are noticing an imbalance in treatment. BE REAL with them and yourself. Empathize with them and the fact that they feel more bonded with the child they are blood related to and that it is normal to have that feeling, but also be real about the impact imbalanced treatment has on both of the children.
Children notice differences in treatment between siblings.
Keeping the balance in blended families is a real art. Some family systems are bade up of traditional nuclear families connected to blended families. Those nuclear family members may not have the knowledge or experience to know how to manage emotions and dynamics of a blended family. It is okay to gently teach them and enforce boundaries related to your own children.
If the issue of fairness of treatment of the children is coming up between you and your spouse, seek help from an experienced counselor who works with blended families.
There is not one recipe for success, however, communication and understanding are a the top of the list. A therapist can get to know your unique family situation and guide you based off of your family’s needs.