Blended families face unique challenges. As two (or more) family dynamics collide, a number of issues may arise between exes, siblings and step-siblings, or step-kids and parents. Never fear – family therapy is the key to fostering a successful and comfortable merge. 

What is a blended family?

A blended family is any household that includes a step-sibling, half-sibling, or stepparent. For example, a woman with a child from a previous marriage who marries a man with two children from a previous marriage are a blended family. Here are some quick statistics about blended families: 

  • 40% of families in the U.S. are blended with at least one partner having a child from a previous relationship before marriage.
  • Stepfamily studies suggest about 60 to 70 percent of marriages involving children from a previous marriage fail.
  • Children in blended families may experience a higher prevalence of mental disorders than those in the traditional two-biological parent families, however strong family relationships can act as a buffer for external stressors and decrease childrens’ stress during the transition. 

Bottom line? Several transitions in and out of marriage/divorce/cohabitation is now typical of American family life but has significant consequences for children. However, family stability is more important than family structure. Cooperative parents who create safe, stable, and loving environments are often successful in establishing positive blended family relationships. 

Unique Challenges that Blended Families Often Face

Visitation Conflicts.

Visitation is a common issue when parents do not communicate or cooperate well, and can be extremely stressful for children and parents alike. Parents may disrupt normal visitation if their spouse isn’t paying child support. Additionally, parents may fail to drop off their children on the agreed-upon schedule. 

Dynamics Between Children

Change of any kind is stressful for kids, and a new household may create anxiety and changes in behavior. Sibling rivalry, competing for attention or dominance, and bullying step siblings are common issues. Children may worry that their biological parents will pay more attention to their stepsiblings. 

The “New Normal” of Parenting Roles

Parents and stepparents must negotiate their roles in the new blended family. If a new partner and their ex have decided to coparent, a stepparent may feel threatened or shut out of certain decisions. In order for a blended family to begin with mutual understanding and respect, sour relationships must be rehabilitated. 

How Can Family Therapy Help Blended Families?

Family therapy is a great first step in fostering a healthy environment. Parents, stepparents, and exes may initially choose to meet without their children to lay out the basics. Additionally, children or parents that are struggling more severely with the transition will benefit from additional support with individual counseling sessions. Here’s how family therapy can help the unique struggles of blended families: 

  • Create a space for children to vocalize their anxieties without fear of judgement
  • Iron out strategies for co parenting with exes in two different households
  • Establish family-agreed-upon rules and expectations, punishments, routines, and bonding activities 
  • Confront possible traumas, such as death of a parent or infidelity
  • Sustain a loving relationship between partners in a new marriage with blended family challenges
  • Equip all family members with healthy communication strategies 


For questions about how family therapy can help your blended family, reach the office of Brett Beaver, LMFT by using this quick contact form. You can learn more about Brett and his approach to therapy by clicking this link.