Tips for Helping Your "Blended Family" Blend Better

Outside of the land of television and movies, so-called “blended families” face tremendous challenges. Whereas Hollywood can help their “make-believe” families “blend” rather nicely, real life isn’t always so kind.

When a couple remarries and there are children involved, it’s crucial for this new family unit to really feel like a family. In Resolving Conflict in the Blended Family by Tom and Adrienne Frydenger, the authors suggest that one of the most effective ways for creating that sense of family is the “team building” concept.

Here’s how it works –

1. A team builder values other people. If there are step-children in the home who feel their opinions don’t matter, they’ll be less likely to want to be a part of this new blended family unit.
2. A team builder isn’t quick to judge the opinions of others. They know that these differences aren’t necessarily right or wrong – just different.
3. A team builder views these differences as opportunities for growth. They provide a healthy variety of thought for creative decision-making. They’re also good starting points for conflict resolution – a must in the blended family!
4. A team builder is able to identify his own goals and interests. Nothing will sink a blended family faster than irrational thinking on the part of either or both spouses.
5. A team builder wants to involve all conflicting parties in the resolution process. Ever tried planning a “blended family vacation?” It’s an exercise in “conflict resolution” at its best. Better to get all opinions, gripes, scheduling issues, etc on the table early in the process.
6. A team builder is willing to co-operate. The blended family is not a dictatorship. Leading by example is always the best way to raise children anyway.
7. A team builder is willing to accept uncomfortable momentary circumstances in order to build a good working relationship. Shouldn’t we all! But this is especially true in the case of the blended family. It may take longer to accomplish a “family goal” . . . but in the end, it’s worth it!
8. A team builder recognizes the value of trustworthiness. All children are naturally suspect of blended families initially. That means, Mom and Dad, your credibility is being graded on a much tougher scale the second time around. Be trustworthy – and be willing to trust your children and stepchildren. Don’t make earning your trust too difficult for them.
9. A team builder does not coerce or manipulate. Rational persuasion goes much further than step-parent force any day.
10. A team builder will commit to the consensus of the group. The only way for a blended family to really “blend” is if each member buys into the concept that this is, in fact, a family now. Especially in this case, the whole is not greater than the sum of the parts.

Team building is a great concept to use to help your blended family “blend.”

Author: Jim Burns, Ph.D.
(Excerpted from the book, Resolving Conflict in the Blended Family by Tom and Adrienne Frydenger.)

Blended Families Can Be Successful

Many families today are blending members from past relationships. It would be easy to give up when faced with all the conflicting methods of parenting and discipline that come to a family who has joined forces together.

As I was doing research for a recent book, I interviewed a young counselor at a youth camp. I was impressed with her sincerity, maturity, and gratitude that her “blended family" had made the effort and sacrifice to work together toward a common goal. She admitted that she was the instigator of most of the conflict and absolutely refused to cooperate on even the most menial request by her step-mother. She could tell that the adults were becoming increasingly unhappy and stressed and she was secretly glad that they were suffering.

Then an interesting thing happened. She was invited to spend a weekend with a friend and she saw what happens when families get along and support one another. The family held a family meeting to decide about some upcoming projects and chores. When putting activities on the calendar, she was amazed to see her friend volunteer to attend the ball game with her little brother so the parents could make another commitment. They laughed and joked with good natured ribbing as opposed to sarcastic mean spirited teasing. The family ended the family meeting with ice cream sundaes and she saw the kids pitch in without being asked and that they served the parents before getting their own bowl.

It was an eye-opener for this young lady to see that it is possible to work together in a win-win atmosphere. She honestly had not even realized it was possible to live in harmony as opposed to chaos and anger.
When she got home from that stay, she called a family meeting and everyone came fearing that she was going to say she was moving out if she didn’t get her way. Instead, she told them about what she had witnessed and asked for a commitment for all of them to start over and become a cooperative, supportive and loving family where everyone was treated with respect.

She went on to tell me that it had not been easy to change old habits, especially with her. But, as a family they had set a goal and a commitment and had worked on their relationships and communication skills daily. As a young adult, she said that because of that commitment, she had gone into counseling to assist other young people who were filled with anger. She wanted to share the valuable lessons that she had learned.
Oh yes, she counts her step-mother as one of her best friends now.

In our living room is a beautiful potted plant. It contains a number of small individual stems and branches that, as separate entities, are fragile and unsteady. Each stem could probably make it if it were broken off and stuck in a glass of water, but it might not. However, grouped together, they gain strength and protection from one another. Their roots are intertwined and form a foundation that allows them to successfully withstand being knocked over and occasionally neglected.

Families are like that plant. We are all in this together, and we need to know there are others who will hold us up when we need it and support us as we grow stronger. The word for the strength of a unit is synergy. It means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

It is that common goal of cooperation and support that builds success in our children and our families. Please don’t give up. Try one more time to provide the loving and respectful environment that each member of the family deserves.

Good luck and God bless. You do the most important work in the world.

This article has been written by Judy H. Wright, a parent educator and PBS consultant. You will find a full listing of books, tele-classes, and workshops listed at


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