Every family in the universe experiences struggles and growing pains that can cause shifts in family dynamic. For members of blended families, though, these struggles can be quite different than those of their traditional counterparts. Blended families lack the biological connections that make it instinctive to love family members. Instead, Step Parents are asked to choose to love their step children without question and step children are expected to love and respect adults with whom they share no DNA and sometimes feel in competition with. These realities often send parents on a search for a new family recipe that takes into account the very different ingredients that blended families have to work with. Any internet search or trip to the local bookstore could yield some unexpected results more closely resembling instructions from a cookbook than family advice. Information mecas like Focus on the Family and Smart Stepfamilies all seem to subscribe to a 'crockpot mentality' that emphasizes the slow rate at which blended families simmer while stressing that allowing the family to come together in its own time is vital for a successful blend.
Assembling the correct ingredients is essential to any recipe. The blended family recipe is no different and requires extra helpings of patience, tolerance, flexibility and communication. Shortage of any one of these ingredients may leave your house in chaos, your children in rebellion and your spouse in misery. Parents and children who understand and can accept that everyone in the family will need to make adjustments, be flexible and communicate their needs and feelings will do better than those who come into the family with expectations that can not or are not immediately met. Step Parents who are tolerant of resistant step children and patient with their conflicted spouse will find greater contentment than those who try to force acceptance from apprehensive children or give ultimatums to their spouse.
Parents who take the time to learn about and seek out successful blended families will find that how you bring the ingredients together can be as important as having the right ones in the first place. Taking the right ingredients and throwing them into a microwave hoping for immediate results will leave everyone frustrated, angry and feeling hopeless. It is so important for the entire family unit to realize that blending a family takes time. Each member of the family needs to be given their own time to mix with the rest. Slowly, all the individuals that make up the family will begin to come together and if given the right amount of time and space to simmer – sometimes for years - the end result will be a healthy, hearty family foundation to sustain the family through all of life's hills and valleys.
If you are part of a blended family who needs direction, there are almost endless resources available to you! The National Stepfamily Resource Center has some great information here and The Smart Stepfamily is a gold mine of strategies, ideas and information relating to blended families. Start here to find topics that most interest you. Take advantage of these resources and know that cooking a blended family is probably one of the most difficult things you will ever do, but you aren't alone on your journey and support is only a click or page flip away!