One of the most incredible achievements in parenting is a blending a family. I can not say this from experience, only by looking at the incredible effort it requires. The effort involved in turning several related people into a family is something I think we often overlook. A family is created through years of shared experiences. A shared bloodline can help, but I believe that it may be a hinderance just as often. I know, in my case, that several of our family traits do not lend themselves to a tight-knit family.
Blending Requires Change
When we think of family, we think of stability and security. Change is not going to be on the list of enjoyable features of a family. Thus, a blending situation, where change is required, starts off on a bad footing. All of the family members have created and strengthened ties among the source families. These ties now have to be adjusted and expanded to adapt to the new family unit. There are positive and negative types of change, but when stability is the norm, any change is going to meet resistance. This resistance may be interpreted as a refusal to accept the new family. However, I think a deeper look reveals a general fear of change and not a particularly negative attitude towards the new family. Put simply, it is not personal; it is just a distaste for having to change.
Change Requires Patience
When resistance is introduced, the options are to push forward or slow down. Pushing forward creates greater resistance even though it may still be able to “plow ahead.” This aspect is where we see the art of a good parent. The family members need to experience resistance at some level. Otherwise, everyone will just be mired in a situation that never gets resolved. On the other hand, that resistance may end up being too much in some cases. Normal life struggles that are compounded by the friction in a new family can lead to withdrawal, depression and other negative feelings. If you recognize those reactions as some teenagers are known for, then it will be easy to see why blending a family with teenagers in the mix is that much harder. These kids already have a bunch on their plate and adding blending struggles may not be workable.
Therefore, there needs to be a plan to move forward that does not burn people out. A successful blending requires a large number of steps and connections so when one is not working, let it go. There is always enough to work on. Areas that are a struggle can be pushed off until other connections are made. This allows the changes involved in blending a family to occur over a longer period of time. Think of creeping grass like Bermuda. Initially, there may not be much visible, but over time it can transform into a beautiful green field. Kudzu is sort of the same, but I think that an analogy that covers everything in vines is not as positive.
Slow and Steady Winds The Race
No child is raised in a day. It takes decades to raise a child and make them a full member of the family. Yes, I mean (among other things) a member of the family that doesn’t have to sit at the “kids” table during family meals. A blended family is no different. When you think of everyone starting as an infant in the new family, then why would you expect the family to be fully functional in just a few months or even years? Like all good things in life, a blended family takes time and work. So do not be discouraged when you do not see immediate gains. Also like many things in life, when the gains come, they tend to come in bunches and maybe even snowball into a huge success.