The complex world of blended families

Are blended families hard? That would have to be a resounding yes. Here, we talk about the complex world of blended families.


Blended families are often celebrated for their potential to bring love and happiness into our lives, however, they are not without their fair share of challenges. This article explores the difficulties faced by blended families and offers insights on how to overcome these hurdles, emphasising the experiences of both adults and children.

The challenges are often shown from the parent’s perspective and I feel it’s important to give the child/children a voice too.

3 challenges in blended families

1. Different parenting styles

One of the primary challenges in blended families is reconciling differing parenting styles. Each parent may come from a different background with distinct rules and expectations. Usually, they have a belief, vocalised or not, that their way is the best way.

Open and honest communication is key. The best time to do this is before you blend families to ensure your views are aligned. If they are not, then you need to seriously consider if blending is right for you and your respective children. 

2. Emotional baggage

Adults in blended families often bring emotional baggage from previous relationships and upbringing, which can affect their current relationship.

You would benefit from seeking support through counselling to address these issues and ensure that you are in a healthy place for a new relationship.

3. Children

Children in blended families may experience confusion, resentment, or loyalty conflicts as they adapt to new parental figures. 

Encourage open dialogue with children. Reassure and allow them to express their feelings and concerns while reaffirming your love and support. They are not being difficult or are wrong to express their emotions - even if you don't like them.

Think about the issue of control or lack thereof for your child/ren. They had no control over the separation of their parents and now have no control over potential new living arrangements with your new partner and possibly including stepsiblings. It’s a difficult place to be and they may not have adjusted to the breakdown of their nuclear family. So, whatever you do - don't rush it.

Depending on their age, communicate and discuss the blending and get their views. You, as the adult, get to make decisions, however, if your child is not on board, it can make your relationship very difficult and cause resentment all round. 

Consider the following and the impact on them:

  • Will it be a new house?
  • Will they have their own bedroom?
  • Do they have to change schools? 
  • Are they close to their other parent?
  • Are they close to their friends?
  • Do they like your new partner?

The perspective of the child

From a child's perspective, blended families can be both rewarding and challenging.

Short-term challenges

Children may initially struggle with feelings of loss, confusion, or jealousy when adjusting to a new family structure. Patience, understanding, and consistent reassurance can help children through these difficult transitions.

Long-term effects

Children may face long-term issues such as identity struggles, as they navigate their place in a complex family set-up. Especially, if they have half-siblings on both sides, step-siblings and other sibling-type relationships

Create a sense of belonging by developing family traditions and maintaining strong, supportive relationships.

One-on-one parenting time is an important factor. For children, it can be a challenge to see a stepsibling spending more time with their parent than they do - so when you do have parenting time, make the most of it and work on and maintain a positive relationship to really understand your child/ren.

Positives of blended families

Despite the challenges, blended families offer unique advantages, such as:

  • Diverse perspectives: Blended families expose children to diverse viewpoints and experiences, promoting adaptability and tolerance.
  • Extended support network: Children gain additional loving adults in their lives, expanding their support system.
  • Develop resilience: Overcoming the challenges of blended families can help children build resilience and coping skills, valuable throughout their lives.

7 keys to blended family success

Here are some ways to make a blended family successful.

1.  Communication

Regular, open, and respectful communication is vital.

2. Flexibility

Be flexible in your expectations and patient during the adjustment period. And be flexible with schedule unexpected schedule changes,  

3. Clear boundaries

Establish clear roles and boundaries for all family members. Let all voices be heard in your new family unit, but understand and respect that your child/ren has another family unit too.

4. Quality time

Spend quality time together, building strong relationships.

5. It’s not a competition.

I feel strongly about this one. Everyone in the family is important and matters. There shouldn’t be a ranking order. You don’t have to be the priority above his/her child/ren. Some stepparents talk about wanting to be the number one priority of their partner/spouse and stating that what they want, should come above what the child wants. This way of thinking will lead to disappointment and resentment.

6. Your parental responsibility

Do not take advantage of your partner when it comes to parenting your child/ren and providing care during your parenting time. This breeds resentment and does not help develop the relationship between your partner and your child/ren.

7. Finances

This is a top factor in the breakdown of nuclear families and considering the additional challenges in a blended family, it must be discussed before blending, to manage expectations and avoid disappointment. If one partner enters the relationship without children, are they expected to split all costs? Including child-related costs? There is no right or wrong answer – but you both need to discuss it before blending and living together.

Blended families present challenges, but with commitment, communication and a focus on the well-being of all involved, these families can thrive. By embracing the positives and addressing the difficulties head-on, blended families have the potential to provide a nurturing, loving environment for everyone to find their place and grow. Thank you for reading. If you would like more information, feel free to visit my profile.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Northolt, Middlesex UB5 & Uxbridge UB10
Written by Tricia Ibe, MBACP, NCPS
Northolt, Middlesex UB5 & Uxbridge UB10

Tricia Ibe, (MBACP) (MNCPS Accredited) Counsellor. I am experienced in supporting people to achieve healthy relationships, to navigate the challenges of Step/Blended families. infidelity and struggles with being the other woman/man in a relationship.

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