The New Yours, Mine and Ours

by: Lisa Borchetta, MACP, CMC, ACC

When I was a child, one of my favorite movies was “Yours, Mine and Ours”, the story of a widower with 10 children who marries a widow with eight of her own.

In true Hollywood fashion – Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball along with a cast of youngsters served up – all the high-jinx and heart- tugging melodrama that one would expect – as both spouses and their many kids struggle, adjust and finally bond together into “one big happy family”. These days – blended or “step” families are often formed as result of divorce when one or both of the couple in a newly married relationship has children of their own. The scenario brings about numerous challenges not just for the parents but for the kids as well. Though each scenario can be different – parents may want to take the age of their children into account when trying to understand how difficult the adjustment to this situation will be.

Children 10 and Under: Younger children may adjust more easily to new family relationships as they often tend to be more open and accepting of new adults. Challenges can still arise due to increased dependency and needs of younger children in terms of care and supervision. Don’t be surprised if a little regressive behavior appears – as their energy may shift away from say, toilet-training – to - a new adult presence, with whom they may feel competitive for their parent’s affection.

Adolescents Up to 14: As we all know, adolescence can be tricky enough when all things remain steady – so it is not surprising that children in this age group may have the most difficult time adjusting to a blended family. Developmentally a time when kids “push boundaries” as they strive toward independence – parents in a blended family need to be particularly sensitive about not having the disciplinary role fall into the lap of the step-parent. They still need your loving support, attention and clearly defined boundaries and expectations – and will likely need more time to bond with this new adult presence in their day-to-day lives.

Teenagers to Young Adults: At these later stages of teen development and young adulthood – the tendency is for young people to have less involvement with their home life anyway – and this aspect can become accentuated within a stepfamily scenario. It’s not uncommon for young adults to feel as if their position in the family is somewhat threatened by the new addition/s, so parental sensitivity is important. They may not want to show it much – but they still need your support and love – so working toward creating respectful relationships for all parties is helpful.

Adult Children: Your children are still your children no matter how old they are – and even for an adult child – adjusting to a new family can be tricky. Due to the fact that most adult children are living separately – the opportunities for daily conflict as well as creating bonding and connection can be infrequent. Adult children may also find themselves concerned about other issues; inheritance, grand-parenting and caring for aging parents which can be complicated by the arrival of a new spouse with or without children of their own. Working to keep the lines of communication open can go far in quelling issues and concerns that may arise.

Blending families isn’t easy: In this day in age, chances are good your may find yourself in one at some point. Take the time to educate yourself on what to expect, seek the support of families, friends and professionals and take it easy on yourself and the kids – “one big happy family” does not have to be just a dream for Hollywood happy endings.

Lisa Borchetta, MACP, CMC, ACC is a Certified Life Coach and owner of Firebird Life Coaching. In addition to her coaching work with individual and group clients, Lisa is also a public speaker, teacher and writer. She is a former Mental Health Counselor and holds a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology. Lisa writes for HopeAfterDivorce.org, FamilyShare.com, and LAFamily. You can visit Lisa’s website at www.firebirdlifecoaching.com, her blog at firebirdlifecoach.wordpress.com and her FB page at www.facebook.com/FirebirdLifeCoaching.


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