The traditional “Nuclear Family” – two parents originally and only married to each other, with children – has become less common over the past several decades. This Leave It to Beaver paradigm has given way to a more diverse, intricate set of family types. Let’s explore some of these new family structures and discuss the opportunities and challenges they present.
Person with children marries a spouse with no children. This type of blended family can run into obstacles if the parent-spouse assumes that the new partner will automatically take on the roles and responsibilities of “mom” or “dad.” The childless partner, meanwhile, may feel overwhelmed or awkward because of the new family responsibilities.
To succeed, the couple should establish clear rules regarding how to care for and discipline the children and how to meet family expenses. Strive to show a united front to the children. Allow new relationships to develop organically. Reassess the family’s governing rules periodically, as the children grow and as the relationship evolves (e.g. couple moves in together, etc.).
Divorced parent with kids marries another divorced parent with kids. This “Brady Bunch” blended family can get quite complex, given the sheer number of relationships and all the permutations they create. On the plus side, both “Brady Bunch” spouses will be experienced spouses, and the children (when well managed) can band together to help each other and/or assist with chores around the house. Again, organization is key to harmony. Consider establishing a weekly meeting, where everyone can speak freely, air grievances or creative ideas (if any), and do something fun as a unit.
Widow or widower with children remarries. These step-families can lead to healing or destructive dynamics, depending on the nature of the new parent-child relationships. The absence of the deceased spouse/parent understandably can powerfully influence the family dynamic. Communication and empathy can deepen bonds. Avoid trying to rush intimacy or the psychological healing and coping processes.
Divorced or widowed parents of adult children marry. Work to address issues related to inheritance, medical care and retirement to alleviate concerns among the children. If the blended family is geographically distant from all or some of the children, create opportunities for bonding, such as shared holidays or vacations.
Our experienced and compassionate Minnesota family law attorneys can address the diverse legal issues that arise in blended families. Call us to schedule a consultation at 763-323-6555.