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Living as a blended family

Provided by Gundersen's Employee Assistance Program

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A blended family consists of a couple and their children from the existing and all previous relationships. While blended families can be perfectly healthy and functional, they can also present challenges that may not be as prevalent or intense within traditional families. Blended families experience higher divorce rates, and children growing up in blended homes are twice as likely to struggle with depression or antisocial behavior.

Change

While finding a new love is a source of comfort and healing for the parent, children are more likely to feel threatened, confused and displaced by the change. Listen carefully to your children's fears and concerns and be respectful of their need to stay connected to the noncustodial parent.

Discipline

Experts recommend that new stepparents refrain from taking a primary role in disciplining stepchildren until they've established a strong bond. Some children, especially teens, can be expected to rebel against the authority of stepparents. Spouses in blended families can privately agree to a disciplinary strategy and stick with it.

Blending

Getting used to living together takes time. Resentments may linger. Routines, privacy, individual habits, and personal space and possessions all need to be worked out. Expect a period of adjustment and discomfort. You can help make the transition easier by maintaining as many of your children's routines as possible, as well as including your ex-spouse in special events.

The right mix

Successfully blended families harmoniously merge old traditions and relationships with new ones. Through dedication and planning, you can forge bonds that enrich the lives of all your family members while creating a healthy family environment.

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