Dating Tips7 minutes Safia, 14 February 2023

The Blended Family Model: Happy Families 2.0

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What does every parent want? For their children to be happy. And what do the general public think this requires? An intact family. But what does “intact” even mean? It’s 2023. Can we finally agree that the model of the nuclear family and “mum, dad and their child” is no longer the norm in every situation? And that children from blended families can be genuinely happy? In fact, that they can even be a smidge happier than children who just have one mum and one dad?

Everyone who’s been in this situation knows that deciding to separate isn’t an easy call to make – at all. Especially not if there are children involved. Can you, too, still hear that voice in your head? “Whaaat? You’re separating?! Your poor children!” Whether these statements, or similar words, were spoken by a close relative or a distant acquaintance, it doubtless didn’t make the decision any easier for you. Luckily, more and more people are sharing positive experiences about the 50/50 childcare model and happy, satisfied blended families. And that’s a good thing – because blended families are becoming increasingly common. More and more families with children are a somewhat motley bunch. It’s no longer taboo for parents with one or more children to get separated or divorced after a lengthy relationship. As a result, increasing numbers of alternative family models have come into being over the last few decades.

But if you think blended families are a new, modern invention, you couldn’t be further from the truth. This kind of family has always been around, but people just didn’t use to call them a “blended family”. Instead, they were a “step-family”. Today, terms like “bonus family”, “bonus mum”, “bonus dad” and “single-parent” family are increasingly popular. But what does it mean to live in a blended or bonus family? And what’s the recipe for making it a success? We’ve put together a couple of tips to help ensure there’s nothing standing in the way of your new blended family’s happiness.


The Family Model as an Experiment – Creating a Blended Family

Two homes, two bedrooms for each child, two mums and dads, or bonus mums and bonus dads. Sound familiar? If so, you probably already have your own bonus family. Blended families are created when a parent separates from their partner and a single mother or father enters into a relationship with a new partner, who may also have their own children. In other words, you and your children, plus your new partner and any children they may have, constitute a blended family. It doesn’t matter whether your new partner has their own children, or whether they have children from a previous marriage or relationship, say. Similarly, it doesn’t matter whether the parents are a married couple, are unmarried, share a household, live in separate places, or each live as single parents. There are more types of blended family arrangement than stars in the sky. And the living situations for these arrangements can be just as varied.

So, it’s probably no surprise that blended families are usually an experiment, in the truest sense of the word. Still, there are many parents who live with their own biological children and non-biological children and share responsibility with a wide array of other family members. For parents and children in blended families, the key lies in trying things out and distributing roles creatively. This helps new families deal with the following questions and similar issues: who helps out at home, and how? Who takes the children to school? To their sports clubs? To see their friends? How is time divided between the biological family and the bonus family (let’s be honest, it sounds much better than step-family), between the old family and the new?


The Blended Principle: What Are Its Perks?


The blended family isn’t a single, uniform model. Instead, it’s a principle under which one parent takes on multiple roles. For instance, a parent can take on the role of mother or father for their own children while also acting as a mother or father to their partner’s children, to a certain extent. In a blended family, a child tends to learn pretty quickly that their parents’ roles are more flexible than in other, more traditional families. These parents need to assign responsibilities and make new decisions so the child knows who they can turn to at all times. Over time, the child gets used to not just having two parents but having three, four or even more at once. Of course, a child’s relationship with their biological parents is particularly special. Despite this, there is lots of scope for non-biological parents to serve as their mother or father.

This primarily means that children get more attention than those who aren’t part of a blended family. Why? Because, alongside their biological mother and father, there’s the new partner, and a set of maternal and paternal grandparents for each of the parents. Even the fact that there are often more children in the house than in a smaller family entails a different kind of socialisation and growth. For children, this means that their social needs are more than satisfied. For parents, this means they have lots of flexibility when it comes to delegating or sharing responsibility because, at the end of the day, more people are involved in bringing up the children.


On Conflicts, Compromises and Other Attempts to Find Solutions


What could be nicer than falling in love again after all the heartbreak of a separation? However, if children are involved, there are a couple of things to bear in mind so you can make your blended family a success and reduce the potential for conflict within your new family. After all, once everyone’s met each other for the first time and the blended family’s life is getting more intertwined and more serious, problems are par for the course. There’s no tried-and-tested recipe for turning a motley group of parents and children into a family, but we’ve got tips to make it easier for your family to grow together.

In theoretical terms, blended families might even sound advantageous to your ears. What single mother or father hasn’t ever wished for an extra pair of hands to help out? In larger families, responsibility can be shared among multiple people and it’s easier for individuals to take a short break from time to time. However, parents should remember what the separation from their child’s biological father or mother means for them. Some children struggle to open up to a new parent – and some adults can find it hard to accept their partner’s child.

Blended families have the benefit of size, but this can also complicate their dynamics and sometimes quickly make things much less clear. For a mother or father in a new, large blended family, it can be hard to give enough attention to one child who needs a little more support than another, simply because they’re dealing with multiple tasks at once. The challenges of having a blended family often lie in aligning everything with everything else. You can’t do everything, and certainly not at the same time. However, if the new parents are a good match, they’ll be able to successfully overcome these situations. More than anything else, the blended families are about the ability to strike compromises and find creative solutions – both for children and parents.

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