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Parenting Effectively
Happy Blended Families

Blended family is a term recently coined, to define those households composed of parents and children who may not all be related by blood. The results of blending a family are stepparents and stepchildren. Many of you, who live in blended family households, are aware of the unique stresses and strains that affect blended families. Simply, the more members there are in any family, the more complex is the task of relating.

Rather than focus on the blended family as different from the traditional family, let’s take a look at what family really means. What we really have are families – lots of different kinds of households in which people who live together make moral and emotional claims on one another.

According to Letty Cottin Pogrebin in her book, Growing Up Free, the word “family” implies a unit of at least one child and one adult whose moral and emotional claims on one another create a tapestry that each member acknowledges as “my family.”

Many people are surprised to learn that in America there is no traditional family. Here are the facts:

  • 18.5% of all American households are composed of two employed parents and their children;
  • 15.6% of all American households are composed of a father who is sole breadwinner and a mother who is a fulltime homemaker;
  • 6.2% of all American households are composed of a single mother and her children;
  • 0.6% of all American households are composed of a single father and his children.

The high rate of divorce and remarriage in American has produced 25 million stepparents. One child in eight is a stepchild. Of every 100 children under age 18, only 67 live with their two biological parents. The other 33 children live with a single parent, stepparents or other custodians. Obviously, with these statistics we need to redefine the family and begin educating ourselves as to how to rear healthy children in whatever family constellation they live. It’s not the family that’s important, but family life that exerts the most important influence on the development of your children.

Teach your children that there is enough love to go around to all family members, biological or blended. Show respect for the caring your child has for your ex-spouse. Don’t be threatened by your child’s stepmother. Don’t make your children have to choose between you. Work together so that the significant adults in your child’s life can expand and enhance his or her learning.

Look at your blended family as an opportunity to develop tolerance and flexibility. Be creative about the ways that you include extended family member into your family life. Teach your child to appreciate that happy family life is created by caring, committed people of all ages and connections.

Family life and child rearing is too important to be undertaken on a “trial and error” basis. Educate yourself by reading and attending classes on parenting. Occasionally, when a problem arises that is beyond your understanding, it is appropriate to seek the expertise of a family therapist. Each family is as unique as the members who make it. Sometimes personal problems or relationship problems interfere with productive family life. It is important to recognize these problems, to seek professional help and to restore family life to a healthy, happy balance.

Dr. Kathy Marshack can help you. She is accepting new clients and has two office locations for your convenience. If you live in the Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington area (or can drive to these locations) please call to set up your first appointment. See Therapy FAQs for more information. Please give us a call at (360) 256-0448 or (503) 222-6678 or email us at info@kmarshack.com.