The Benefits of Being in a Blended Family

If step parenting sometimes feels thankless and impossible to get right, you’re not alone, and if you’re frustrated while trying to be the step-parent to children who are between the ages of 10 and 14, you’re really not alone.

Children and Blended Families

Research from the American Psychological Association shows that many stepchildren struggle to adjust to being in a blended family, with younger adolescents (ages 10 to 14) having the most difficult time. Children 15 and older often need less parenting and children under age 10 tend to be more accepting and adaptive. Young adolescents, who are forming their own identities tend to be a bit more difficult to deal with.

Trying to do your best as a step-parent can be one of the more challenging, difficult experiences in life—one where it seems like, no matter what you do, someone is upset with you. But take heart, not only are there many step parenting success stories out there, there are experts and resources available to help your blended family become one of those success stories.

Jean McBride on the Benefits of a Blended Family

Jean McBride is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Colorado, who has spent her career working with families in transition. Jean specializes in divorce adjustment, parenting after divorce, remarriage, and stepfamilies. She teaches an online course as well as divorce classes, and she’s the author of two books, Encouraging Words for New Stepmothers and Talking to Children About Divorce.

In our last conversation, Jean and I talked about why stepparents, and stepmothers, in particular, get such a bad rap. In our first post in this series, we discussed Jean’s step parenting philosophy. For this post, we’ll provide some much-needed encouragement for stepparents, including some research that affirms what we already, deep-down, suspected: Having more loving adults in their lives can be very positive for children.

Better By the Bunch

Counter-intuitively, Jean says that a blended family can often blend more easily when both spouses bring children into the relationship. Even if the resulting situation isn’t Brady Bunch-perfect (and it rarely is) the children and the parents often adapt more easily when both parents have children.

“When just one of the new members of the marriage have children, then there can be this conflict sometimes of, ‘Are you spending time with your kids, or are you spending time with me?’” Jean said. “But when both parents have children, while it gets to be a lot of juggling, then at least everybody has someone. Sometimes, if you’re the stepparent who doesn’t have children, you feel left out. That yours, mine and ours model can be easier, although none of it is easy. Plus, both parents have experience parenting.”

It’s Not All Bad

Much of what is said and written about blended families focus on the negatives: the difficulties, frustrations, and heartaches of trying to forge a new family identity. What often gets lost in the discussion is that there are benefits for everyone, including children, to being raised in a blended family.

Jean cautioned that, though blended families can be complicated, complicated does not necessarily mean bad. Parents who go into a blended family situation expecting and prepared for complications are frequently able to minimize the difficulties and maximize the benefits.

One benefit for children, Jean said, is the opportunity to see a healthy marriage up close. After experiencing what may have been a contentious marriage and divorce firsthand, the children may not have seen a good relationship in action. A blended family allows them that opportunity.

Besides, a blended family provides children with a larger number of people in their lives to love them and look out for them.

“I think children benefit from as many goods, helpful adults in their life as possible, whether that’s teachers, coaches, family, but certainly a stepparent can provide a lot of other really good things. Sometimes children also get additional siblings and more stability in the family, too.

Knowing More About Your Blended Family

Blended families can certainly pose many challenges for everyone involved, but that doesn’t mean that everyone can’t also reap the benefits. From increased stability and the model of a healthy marriage, increased household income, new siblings to bond and grow with, and more loving adult people to guide, mentor, and help the children, there are tremendous benefits for everyone involved.

Join us for the final post in this series of posts, in which Jean discusses creating rules and expectations for a newly blended and (gasp!) how to manage the holidays.