Blended families- Does it matter?

By: Tonya Mead, PhD, MBA, M.Ed, CHFI, CFE, PI

Have you heard the latest news about John Travolta and Kelly Preston? Celebrity gossipers are wondering aloud who donated the egg. Does it matter? Or that Madonna is the single parent of five adopted children, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have a blended family of seven children. Or that Bruce Jenner is the step parent to the Kardashian girls?

How prevalent is this trend?
Every day, there are about 1,300 new blended families formed (U.S. Census, 2007). Additionally, about 65% of all remarriages in the United States involve children from one or both of the previous relationships. And to expand matters, the blended family may also include children of the current relationship. The traditional family composition has metamorphized to include single parent households (divorced, widowed, or unmarried); persons in heterosexual cohabitation (with or without children); and same-sex unions (with or without children).

Still why is it such a big deal?
Richard Kait, writing for the April 2010 edition of Life Insurance Selling theorizes that blended families and other non-traditional households ‘outnumber traditional families’. Another source, the National Step-family Resource Center forecasts that at least one in three kids will live in a blended family before the age of 18.
According to Charles Zastrow, author of Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare: Empowering People, , reconstituted families are ‘burdened by much more baggage than two childless adults marrying for the first time’. For instance, parents must deal with the loss of a partner (due to divorce or death). Often, such unforeseen separations lead to fears of establishing new relationships. Additionally, Zastrow argues that the child and parent must find ways to resolve the latent feelings held for the departing parent. To make matters worse, children are often used as pawns by couples who continue to argue about the demise of the marriage. When parents spend much time in conflict with their ex-spouses, less energy (emotional, mental and physical) is available to nurture the new relationship. Such conflict threatens to weaken the fragile bond still in its infancy. There are more examples of stressors, however,

This isn’t an article about the stressors, is it?
No. The purpose of this article is to help bystanders, intimate friends and extended family members understand the conflict inherent in blended family relationships. The first thing we need to do, if we truly care for our loved ones, is to refrain from gossip, exhibitions of favoritism and digging up old dirt. These families may represent love at its greatest. People who have been hurt, or who have hurt others and are giving love another go at it. This holiday season, act as an angel. I am reminded of this anonymous quote, ´Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.

Literary Resources

Kait, Richard, (2010) Planning ideas for blended families using life insurance: the marketplace is huge and “gap planning” opportunities for blended families in 2010 are exciting. Life Insurance Selling.

Zastrow, Charles. (2010). Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare: Empowering People, 10th ed. (pp 33-35).Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning International.