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By Jan Wilson
The divorce rate in the United States is over 50%. This means broken original families, then remarriage involving a blended family with his and her children. As the twentieth century draws to a close, it is reported that one-third of all Americans belong to stepfamilies.
Blended family-type arrangements are tough enough when only one partner brings children to the relationship. Add the complications of two sets of children and it can be very tough to almost impossible.
Blending children from two (or more) families does not mean you acquire instant love--very often all you acquire is instant problems and sometimes instant war!
Stereotypes, preconceptions, and dreams of the perfect family can lead to disappointment.
Kinship requires patience and understanding. It does not come overnight or from wishing for a dream family.
The challenge for couples who are blending their families is to acknowledge the ways they are different from the unbroken family.
Then they can establish a new, but satisfying, form of kinship.
A key factor in the success of a blended family is the age of the children at the time of the new relationship.
If the children are young, less than five or six for example, their personalities are still being formed and time is on the side of the blended family's success.
However, when children are over nine or ten,
personalities and relationships within a family are well-formed.
A Texas stepmom, Brenda, reported a real effort to "mother" her new stepchildren, "I had never intended to become a mother. However, you get tied up in the day-to day mothering process when you have two children, ages 5 and 9, for the holidays and most of the summer." Once I felt like a mother, I expected them to feel like I was their mother, too. They never did although the younger child has more motherly feelings for me than her older brother. After four years I am a friend and confidant to both and satisfied with that role. However, it took some time for me to come to grips with my emotions. The desire to be 'mom' was stronger than I expected."
It does depend on the individual children involved, of course, but the relationship between the two adults is the most important variable influencing the outcome.
Therefore, the adults in the relationship should put that relationship first. If that relationship is not strong, then the blended family has a slim chance of success.
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