Congratulations on your new family journey! The excitement of a wedding and setting up rooms for the kids slowly gives way to the complexities of blending families. Suddenly, you’re faced with a new set of relationships and dynamics that require navigation. Stepfamilies, like all families, come with their own unique challenges. That’s where blended family counseling steps in – offering support and guidance during these transformative moments.

The wedding and honeymoon are over, and the kids’ rooms are set up. You had high hopes, but now as you are all settling in, you can feel the strain of trying to make this work. You have a new set of family members to learn to live with and new parent-child relationships to navigate. All stepfamilies face challenges, but you need to know how to navigate these challenges.

Know that the first few years are the hardest

There are so many new challenges, and not all of the decisions you’ll make are easy ones. That’s why knowing what type of therapy to choose to succeed is essential.

Who comes first in a blended family?

There might be a ton of family issues you are struggling with. Know one thing: counseling for blended families means helping adults learn to work as a team. After all, if the two of you break up, there’s no point arguing about parenting roles.

In our years of experience working with stepfamilies, we’ve learned how they are different.

Effective therapy for blended families involves excellent couples therapy.

Marriage counseling that works offers sound advice not only for your couple’s relationship but also on:

  • relationships between parents and children
  • working with step-siblings and settling their battles
  • interfacing with previous relationships effectively.

What is the success rate of blended families?

They’re not so optimistic. Census data reports that the divorce rate for second marriages in the United States is over 60%. Toss in a few angry ex’s and confused or unhappy children, and, well, you know it’s not good news. But that’s without any needed guidance.

Don’t be discouraged by the “success rates” for these types of families. Patience will be your strongest ally.

With the right guidance, you’ll navigate the choppy waters of step parenting and find the right family therapists.

What issues do you deal with when you find blended family counseling near you?

Know that in order to excel in your new family, you’ll need to create predictable, stable routines that may differ dramatically from what each of you is used to. We can help you to craft that process. This helps each member feel protected and supported.

Value every bond, even if it feels like you are “siding with the enemy.” Communicate that there are “no enemies in this household.” Don’t connect at the expense of other family bonds. Invite dialogue about feelings. We’ve learned that encouraging people to talk about their feelings, both “good” emotions and “bad” feelings, allow them to have higher self-esteem.

Your parenting styles clash.

Research that followed children from infancy onward asked: what factors produce healthy and happy kids? One thing emerged from this study: There is no one right parenting style.

But another factor was also very clear: When parents disagree on how to parent, children suffer. When you aren’t a united family front, cooperatively working together for everyone’s benefit, it shows.

You are struggling with the “Ugly Stepmother” syndrome

Mothers play a pivotal role in successful stepfamily functioning. Women can feel stuck in the middle and given impossible roles, especially when they are asked to parent to stepdaughters.

They often have responsibility for making parenting decisions but have no authority to do so. They can be left feeling undermined, angry, and hopeless.

It is a relief to learn that you don’t have to step in as a parent when their “REAL mom” is in the picture. Don’t try to figure out a parallel role with biomom or an adoring grandmother. Instead, work at being a cool “aunt” or family friend to a child who screams, “You aren’t my Mom!”

Maybe even become her confidante over time. Insist that Dad gets back into the picture and in the driver’s seat as the primary parent. Sometimes a professional can help.

Children act up

No one should be shocked to find that children get upset at change. They have a lot on their plates and need your help in figuring out how to navigate all of the changes that have been thrown at them. Know how to react when people are defiant or even aggressive in the family. Understand that, like you, and they are looking for some guidance.

Instead of keeping the focus on control (“discipline”), refocus it on raising great kids.

Teens disconnect

Keep in mind that each of you wants to maintain a positive relationship with your teen, not just the bio-parent. This will be easier if you aren’t expected to replace the parent. What you want is to help the teen feel part of the family, to belong to this group of people.

the quality of the relationship adolescents have with each of their parents is a more important factor influencing perceptions of family belonging

When there are opposing “teams.”

When you see “sides” developing, recognize that all of you need a common vision of what all of you stand for. No, it’s not the same as what you once stood for in your previous family constellation. But being “difference” from one another doesn’t have to mean “bad.” It makes it understandable that change is hard.

People are jealousy

Children jealous of other children, wives jealous of ex-wives, and kids jealous of you spouse. You might even feel left out when you see the love and attention your spouse doles out to his or her children.

There are many ways jealousy can manifest in a blended family. Maybe your children are jealous of your new partner, feeling they are taking your attention away from them. Maybe there is jealousy between the stepsiblings. Heck, you may even feel jealous of the blood bond between your partner and their children that you don’t have with your stepkids.

Step-siblings are fight

It’s easy to get distressed when we watch children in blended families fight until we realize that all siblings fight. In healthy families, researchers found that brothers and sisters can fight 40% of the time!

Of the forty percent of blended families in the U.S., at least one partner has a child from a previous relationship.

Imagine you’ve been tossed into a new household where, like you, everyone competes for attention. Now imagine that you are being asked to become a “new best friend” with someone you compete with. At least you don’t like them at this exact moment.

Have patience and expect people to be civil, not besties. They don’t have that lifelong bond that siblings raised together have.

Lead with understanding but not an alliance. Healthy families are known for having no steady allegiance. They take one person’s side in this fight and another person’s side in that argument.

Don’t look to “blend” look for “working parts” or “components.”

“Blending” means “combined or mixed together so that the constituent parts are indistinguishable.” That’s not a goal you want in a working, blended family.

Look for “working parts” instead, like a dinner plate. Grind them together, and it’s just not appetizing. Allow them to work together, however, and they are nourishing.

When everyone has a role to play, they don’t have to worry about being indistinguishable from each other. Protein doesn’t have to act like carbs; carbs don’t have to be vegetables. But every item on the dish makes a healthy meal.

Red flags for blended families

Don’t expect both of you to agree on everything. You have blended two family systems; with it, you’ll have to learn how to have better, warmer, more cooperative disagreements. You’ll have to keep in mind what brought you together in the first place.

Start agreeing on principles rather than arguing about the details.

When to call it quits in a blended family?

Attend blended family therapy early to lay down a good foundation. It will help you to define themes that all of you can rally around. Feeling close and raising children who grow to become well-adjusted, happy adults is the goal. Don’t make discipline the central focus of your interactions.

Good therapy will also help you recognize the signs of abuse, and stop them if you can or know when you can’t.

Find the best help you can afford, and listen to their advice. Work together first on improving your marriage and working more effectively as a team. These skills will positively impact every aspect of your life.

Only if that becomes impossible should you consider calling it quits and going your separate ways.


Remember, blending families is a journey, and the first few years are often the most challenging. Blended family counseling isn’t about erasing differences but learning to understand, respect, and cooperate with each other’s unique dynamics. Seek professional guidance early to establish a solid foundation, focusing on building strong relationships rather than battling over differences. By working together, improving your marriage, and honing your teamwork skills, you pave the way for a harmonious, loving environment for everyone involved. Only when all efforts seem impossible should the idea of parting ways even be considered.”