Dolla Merrillees with daughter Shakar, husband Simm and stepson, Jordan.

A blended family or reconstituted family, is a family in which one or both members of the couple have children from a previous relationship. The member of the couple to whom the child is not biologically related is the stepparent, specifically the stepmother or stepfather.

The traditional and strictest definition of a “stepfamily” is a married couple where one or both members of the couple have pre-existing children who live with them. More recently, the definition is often expanded to include all cohabiting couples, whether married or not. Some people also apply the term to non-custodial relationships, where “stepparent” can refer to the partner of a parent with whom the child does not live. The term is not generally used (but can be in individual cases) to refer to the relationship with an adult child who never lived in the home with the parent’s new partner.

Living in a blended family is increasing at an astonishing rate in our country. One out of every three Americans is either a stepfather, stepmother, stepsibling, or stepchild. According to US government statistics 23% of families residing with a legally married couple are “blended families.”

The process of successful blending two family cultures, histories and patterns into one, can be very complicated. Married couples often try to create an illusion or “picture” that this is an original family – that each child, regardless of their family of origin, need to embrace this new entity as their family and treat stepsiblings as siblings and stepparents as parents from the first day of their marriage. Great picture but not necessarily the truth. 

Parents of blended families need to remember that their children didn’t necessarily have a say in this decisions. Families should…

1. Honor and respect where their children are emotionally and developmentally.

2. Establish and communicate the new family culture with roles, rules, values, and rituals.

3. Live calmly and peacefully in the new family culture themselves.

4. Let the child come to the “New World Order” naturally rather than pushing the child into relationships they may not be ready to embrace.

When you model a healthy loving relationship between the couple (something they may not have witnessed between their original parents), living the New World Order happily, trust your child and they will eventually figure out who they are and what they can give to the new family culture.

Now that’s blending!