Blended Families: Coping, Finding Solutions

Blended families are reminiscent of the television series The Brady Bunch (depending on your age). On television the Brady family appears to live life without much effort. It must be nice!  On the other hand, one main difference between your blended family and the Brady Bunch is that you never see an episode that includes the ex.   Well, that is an episode often experienced and rarely avoided in todays blended family.  Two major challenges for todays blended families involve events around the holidays and discipline.   

Discipline and Blended Families

Anyone in a healthy relationship knows that love and bonding sets the foundation for a strong and trusting relationship.  However, when children and adults develop such a relationship it must come with rules, and boundaries or the relationship can turn haywire.  Without an established set of limitations a loving relationship between an adult and child can even turn treasonous.  For a stepparent, developing a relationship with a stepchild can be a daunting challenge. 

A teacher , a policeman or other authority can set rules without establishing a bond with a child. In this case, the relationship is usually authoritarian.  A stepparent cannot succeed in a blended relationship using this approach.  So, how can a stepparent develop a healthy relationship with a stepchild?

Borrowed Power

There is a concept called borrowed power.  Take the case of a babysitter. A babysitter spends frequent time with children.  Some children may not know the babysitter and if given the opportunity will challenge them.  A babysitter can only form a safe healthy relationship with a child in their care through borrowed power.   For example, parents leave their children with a babysitter because they have given the babysitter the power to be in charge.  Obviously, that power is transferred from the parent to the babysitter.  Similarly, that same power can be transferred from a parent to a stepparent.  This is the concept of borrowed power. Most importantly, the stepparent is given the power to set limits and boundaries by the parent .  

How Can This Be Successful?

  • The transfer of power must be articulated by the parent to their child
  • The stepparent must agree to accept this transfer of power
  • If there is a disagreement as to how the boundaries and limits should look, a meeting of minds should occur behind closed doors, not in front of a child.
  • Behind closed doors a parent and stepparent should discuss a unilateral view of what the boundaries should be and to what extent.
  • Borrowed power should never change without a mutual agreement between parent and stepparent.
  • Stepparents must take care that borrowed power is aligned with a bond of love 

Holidays

Children of blended families often feel split between their two parents during the holidays.  Consequently, they do not know who to spend holidays with, without hurting the other parent.

Here is a possible solution, include both families and share the holidays together as one family.  Of course, this takes a resolute effort between the two adults who were once married, for the children’s sake.  As a result, celebrating each holiday as a whole family can mean harmony and peace for the children.  In this case, children are not forced to choose one parent over the other.  

Incidentally, this arrangement can have its benefits.  Exclusive activities can be planned with children around each holiday.  For example, you can carve a pumpkin together, dress the Christmas tree together , make a valentine’s day card together and the like.

For blended families I hope this helps!

Staff Writer