Blended families

What is a blended family?

blended families @ auckland therapy : counselling and psychotherapyA blended family or stepfamily is a family comprising two parents and their children from previous relationships. Blended families don’t function in the same way as a traditional family and there are usually many challenges particularly in the early transition phase. It takes time and considerable effort for one family to get used to living with another family under the same roof.

Impacts on children

For children it is an enormous emotional adjustment to make, especially when they miss the biological parent who may no longer be in their day-to-day life. Some difficulties that families commonly encounter include:

  • Feelings of grief and loss for children/ teenagers as they miss their previous family system. This is often a big issue for teenagers
  • Children not adjusting to the changes resulting in behaviour problems and acting out. Belonging is so important for a child / young person. Kids / teenagers often act out if they think they don’t have a place
  • Loyalty conflicts for children/ teenagers
  • Conflicts over parenting styles, responsibilities, discipline, house rules, boundaries etc
  • Stepsibling problems particularly jealousies and sibling rivalry
  • Difficulties liking and loving stepchildren. How to form a relationship with stepchildren without your own child becoming jealous
  • Difficulties with previous partners and arranging visitation / contact visits
  • Different parenting styles
  • Resolving excessive guilt related to prior separation / divorce
  • Feelings of being ignored, used and unappreciated
  • Multiple tensions for the new couple as they adjust to their new roles

What therapy can offer

Engaging with a therapist skilled in this work can be helpful. Someone who is not emotionally involved will be able to see what is needed and where things are going wrong. Therapists can offer education in the dynamics of a blended family as well as information on key strategies, skills and tools you will need to make the new relationships succeed.

A therapist can help you as a couple make plans for when conflicts arise and guide you in developing house rules and parenting styles that suit both parents. A therapist can help you set realistic expectations and understand that the establishment of a new family is a work in progress that is constantly changing. A therapist can help you as a couple to build a solid and stable relationship. This in itself is the platform for guiding your children and helping them feel secure and happy in their new family.

There are many approaches to family counselling / therapy. The therapist involved will most likely meet with parents first and assess what would work best for your particular family. You can expect to attend sessions individually and together with all, or some, members of the family. Sometimes individual sessions with children are recommended. This enables a child to express her/his worries, feelings and confusions in a neutral, safe space. A therapist can also offer reassurance to a child that their parents still love them and help the child see the positive aspect of having another parent in their life. Framing up the situation as a bonus rather than a loss is very helpful to a child.

Find a Therapist

Our Child & adolescent team have particular interest and experience in working with blended families. You are very welcome to contact any of them for further information or for an appointment.