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Tips for Thriving as a Blended Family

Happy large family mother father and children at home

After a divorce or other loss of a nuclear family, the prospect of a new marriage can feel exciting, energizing, and full of hope. However, when there are children from one or both spouses’ prior relationships, there can be challenges and complications to combining all the “steps” – stepchildren, stepparents, stepsiblings, etc. In this article, we will explore the best tips for thriving as a blended family.

Understanding the Challenges of a Blended Family

A blended family involves the blending of different personalities, needs, and histories. This includes past baggage and hurts, which especially for children of divorce or loss of a parent can be significant. By being proactive and aware of the potential issues, you can take steps to create a healthy foundation for a new family. Here are some do’s and don’ts to consider for thriving as a blended family:


  • Rush Things: Children tend to struggle when there are too many major changes in their lives at once. So, it’s generally advisable to wait at least a couple of years after a divorce to remarry. Likewise, relationships with new stepparents and stepsiblings can’t be rushed.

It takes time for everyone to get to know each other, work through emotions, develop a connection, and get comfortable with one another. Let the children set the pace for the growth and deepening of the relationships.

  • Allow Ultimatums: Make it clear to your partner as well as both of your children that you will not be making “them or me” choices. Let them know that everyone in the new blended family is important, everyone’s needs count, and compromises will be necessary.

  • Overcompensate: It may be tempting to devote a lot of time and energy to your stepchildren in order to earn their affection or to play the “fun stepparent” at the expense of boundaries or your own children – but it is important for everyone to not overcompensate.

  • Tolerate Disrespect: Although love and closeness take time to develop, you can’t force people to even like each other. The expectation of everyone treating each other with respect should be set right from the start. This extends to speaking respectfully to, and of, one another’s ex-partners; children should never be put in a position where they feel they feel a conflict of loyalty.


  • Pay Attention to Your Children and Acknowledge Their Feelings: Children coming into blended families may have a variety of feelings and worries. They need your reassurance that their feelings matter and that they can talk to you.

  • Establish Fresh Rituals and Traditions: Simple rituals like shared meals, weekly family game nights, and holiday celebration traditions can help provide opportunities for getting to know and appreciate one another, creating shared memories, and forming familial bonds over time.

If you are combining two sets of children, creating brand-new traditions for your newly formed family may be better accepted than making one set of children go along with the routines of another.

  • Allow the Stepparent's Role to Develop Organically: At least initially, it is best to have the stepparent take on the role of a supportive, loving adult in your child’s life rather than a full-fledged parental figure. You should present a united front on matters of rules and discipline.

However, the biological parent should take the lead on discipline and other major parenting decisions. It is especially important to make it clear that the stepparent is not looking to replace the ex-partner but to play a different, “bonus” role.

Seeking Professional Help

Stumbling blocks in the formation of a blended family are natural and to be expected; even biological families face challenges such as sibling rivalries and personality differences. Furthermore, blended families have some additional complexities to overcome.

Time, patience, and understanding are essential – and at times, a mental health professional can be helpful for thriving as a blended family. If a child directs significant anger at a family member or has ongoing difficulties adjusting, consider seeing a therapist.

If there is open favoritism of one child over another, or if parents have difficulties agreeing on roles and boundaries, a family systems approach might be needed. Additionally, if conflict within the new marriage is excessive and is overshadowing positive emotions, consulting a therapist can be beneficial.

At The Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ we have a team of licensed professionals with day, evening, and weekend hours available for individual, couples, or family therapy. Please visit us at, Facebook, or Instagram. Call us at 908-322-0112 for further information.


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