“Blood makes you related. Loyalty makes you family.” Source unknown.
Are You Struggling To Navigate Blended Family Issues?
Do you and/or your partner have children from a previous marriage? Do you feel overwhelmed and unsure as you try to balance competing schedules, resolve conflict and tend to the needs of your entire family? Perhaps you, your ex and your current partner are finding it difficult to agree on discipline strategies or other elements of parenting, and you worry that your child does not have consistency in his or her life. Your child might seem withdrawn or angry, which makes you concerned about the impact of divorce and family blending.
Maybe you and your partner have little time and energy to dedicate to your relationship, and you fear that the stress of combining families is creating a wedge between you. Are you feeling stressed, frustrated and exhausted by shifting familial roles and expectations? Do you wonder if it’s possible to develop successful co-parenting strategies? Do you wish you could create harmony in your family, feel better equipped to manage the unexpected and assure that everyone—including you—feels loved and supported?
Blending Families Is Increasingly Common, And Rarely Easy
In our modern culture, divorce, remarriage and blended families are more and more common. Every blended family looks a little bit different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all guide to bringing stepparents, stepchildren and all other family members together.
Marriage can be difficult, especially if you are carrying hurts and fears that stem from your previous relationship. You and your partner may be faced with all the same challenges that most couples deal with from time to time, from communication issues to overbooked schedules. And, as you try to build a mutually fulfilling life with your partner, you must also consider co-parenting with ex-partners, taking care of your children and/or your partner’s children and attending to the needs of your extended family. You might be having trouble keeping track of everyone who is now involved in your family system, let alone trying to understand each individual’s unique feelings and needs.
With so many people and moving parts, blended family challenges are inevitable. However, the issues that you might be confronting today are not signs that you’re doing something wrong or have made a mistake. It’s impossible to make so many people completely happy all the time. More importantly, there’s no such thing as the “perfect family,” despite all the pressure we may feel to create one.
In truth, your blended family is uniquely yours—a unit that you and your family members are creating together. With the guidance of a family counselor, you can explore and discover new ways to navigate conflict, practice effective communication and create greater balance for everyone involved.
Blended Family Therapy Can Help You Create Harmony And Trust
Blending a family is something like putting food in a crock pot—all the different pieces must come together slowly. And that’s okay. At Crossroads Counseling, your therapist will help you let go of the pressure to create a “perfect” family and create an environment that nurtures your family’s unique growth.
First, your therapist will encourage you and your partner (and any other co-parents, if they are willing to join) to create a list of all the people in your current family structure. Once you see just how many people are involved, and just how many roles everyone is trying to navigate, you’re likely to see that the stress you’re feeling is completely normal. You can begin to clearly identify dynamics in your current family system and accept that everything may not feel completely equal all of the time. For example, your child might seem closer to his birth mother than his step-mother, and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean anyone is doing anything wrong. As you gain a new perspective on your family’s shape, you can develop greater compassion for yourself and greater empathy for everyone in your family unit. With empathy, navigating differences only gets easier.
During blended family counseling, you can also practice new communication skills and role-play difficult conversations in a safe, supportive space. You can create real-world strategies for effective co-parenting, including positive ways to communicate with your ex-partner and your children. As you look for ways to best support your child, you can also learn how to productively suggest compromise while maintaining healthy boundaries and advocating for your needs.
Relationship and marriage counseling for blended families offers you and your current partner an opportunity to step back from the chaos and prioritize your romantic relationship. In sessions, you can express your feelings and fears and challenge any unhelpful beliefs you may hold about yourself and marriage in general. For example, if past experiences make it difficult to feel secure in your relationship today, your therapist can guide you to shift your perspective and work through issues openly and honestly.
Every family, no matter what shape and size, experiences pitfalls and setbacks. But, it’s always possible to get up, brush yourself off and embrace new opportunities to learn and grow. At Crossroads Counseling, blended family therapy can offer you a personalized roadmap for navigating the challenges in front of you. No matter what your family looks like, it is possible to nurture new, lasting familial bonds.
You may have questions or concerns…
No one can really understand my family’s particular situation.
It’s true that each family’s situation is incredibly different. But, our therapists have extensive personal and professional experience when it comes to blended families, and we understand how intense the struggles and the joys can be. We understand how alone you might feel, even when surrounded by so many people. We also know that it is possible to find a harmonious path forward. In sessions, you can speak to someone who will truly listen and strive to understand your unique experience, without judgment. You don’t have to struggle through this on your own.
The issues in my blended family are just too overwhelming. How can counseling possibly help?
It can be so painful to find yourself up against seemingly impossible problems. And, the fact is, it’s not always easy to blend families. The new realities of everyday life may feel stressful and unsustainable. Right now, it may seem as though you are directionless, fumbling through the dark.
Therapy can offer you a light and a roadmap. Once you see things more clearly and create guidelines that work for your family, all those daily challenges can seem much more manageable. And, as you let go of self-criticism and harsh self-judgment, you can see that it is possible to find love and fulfillment in your family, just as it is.
Blended family counseling is too expensive.
We understand how the expenses of raising children, including child support, can strain finances. But, counseling does not have to be a lifelong commitment. Most blended families face the most difficult issues within the first two years. By seeking help early, you are making an important investment in the ongoing stability and security of your entire family system. If you are committed to trying new things and making a change, you can see positive results in a relatively short amount of time. Even when your therapy has ended, you can rest assured that you always have a place to turn if you ever need extra support in the future.