A Blended Family: 7 Stages – 8 Steps | GR8 Relationships

A blended family is a common situation in society, but there are difficulties in that family system that are unique and often complex.  

The book Old Loyalties, New Ties by Emily Visher and John Visher is a good resource, if you can find it. There are some copies of the book on Amazon.com, but they are used and somewhat expensive. Still, it is a good resource for anyone who is looking for help with a blended family.

The following is only in outline form to reduce the size of the post. It is also easier to see the information in this structure. Many people might disagree with that statement because they need more details.

"...but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. - Exodus 20:6   

Blended Family

7 Stages of Emotional Development

1. Fantasy: “It won’t happen to us.”

  • - Adults expect instant love and adjustment
  • - Children try to ignore stepparent—hope they will go away—biological parents will be reunited

2. False-assimilation: “Of course we’re one big happy family.”

  • - Attempts to realize fantasies
  • - Vague sense that things are not going well
  • - Increasing negativity
  • - Splits along biological lines
  • - Step parents feel something is wrong with them

3. Awareness: “ I see what’s bothering me but I don’t dare tell you.”

  • - Growing awareness of blended family pressures
  • - Stepparent begins to perceive what changes are needed
  • - Parent feels pulled between needs of children and of new spouse
  • - Groups divide along biological lines
  • - Children may observe and exploit differences between the parents

4. Mobilization: “You’re wrong, that’s not the way it is.”

  • - Strong emotions begin to be expressed, often leading to arguments
  • - Stepparent is clear on the need to change
  • - Parent fears change will bring loss
  • - Sharp division between biological groups
  • - Stepparent with no children is in isolated position and lacks support

5. Action: “It’s hard but we’ll work it out together.”

  • - Couple begins working together in attempts to find solutions
  • - Blended family structure changes
  • - Boundaries are clarified
  • - Children may resist changes

6. Contact: “We’re all getting closer.”

  • - Couple working well together
  • - Closer bonding between stepparent-stepchild and other step-relations
  • - Stepparent has definite role with stepchildren
  • - Boundaries are clear
  • - More ability to deal with the larger family system issues

7. Resolution: “It’s different and it’s OK.”

  • - Blended family identity is secure
  • - When difficulties arise the family may regress to earlier stages, but moves ahead quickly
  • - Usual difficulties are around specific family events involving the larger family system

8 Tasks for a New Blended Family

1. Deal with Losses and Changes

  • - Identify/recognize losses for all individuals
  • - Support expressions of sadness
  • - Help children talk and not act out feelings
  • - Read blended family books
  • - Make changes gradually
  • - See that everyone gets a turn
  • - Inform children of plans involving them
  • - Accept the insecurity of change

2. Negotiate Different Developmental Needs

  • - Take a child development and/or parenting class
  • - Accept validity of the different life cycle phases
  • - Communicate individual needs clearly
  • - Negotiate incompatible needs
  • - Develop tolerance and flexibility

3. Establish New Traditions

  • - Recognize traditions are different not necessarily right or wrong
  • - Concentrate on important situations only
  • - Stepparents take on discipline enforcement slowly
  • - Use family meetings for problem solving and giving appreciation
  • - Shift “standards” slowly whenever possible
  • - Retain/combine appropriate rituals
  • - Enrich with new creative traditions

4. Develop a Solid Couple Bond

  • - Accept couple as primary long term relationship
  • - Nourish couple relationship
  • - Plan for couple “alone time”
  • - Decide general household rules as a couple
  • - Support one another with the children
  • - Expect and accept different parent-child stepparent-stepchild feelings
  • - Work out money matters together

5. Form New Relationships

  • - Fill in past histories
  • - Create stepparent-stepchild 1:1 time
  • - Parent make space for stepparent-stepchild relationship
  • - Do not expect “instant love” and adjustment
  • - Be fair to stepchildren even when caring has not developed
  • - Follow children’s lead in what to call stepparent
  • - Do fun things together

6. Create a Parenting Coalition

  • - Deal directly with parenting adults in other household
  • - Parents keep children out of the middle
  • - Do not talk negatively about adults in other household
  • - Control what you can and accept limitations
  • - Avoid power struggles between households
  • - Respect parenting skills of former spouse
  • - Contribute own “specialness” to children
  • - Communicate between households in most effective manner

7. Accept Continual Shifts in Household Composition

  • - Allow children to enjoy their households
  • - Give children time to adjust to household transitions
  • - Avoid asking children to be “messengers/spies”
  • - Consider teenager’s serious desire to change residence
  • - Respect privacy (boundaries) of all households
  • - Set consequences that affect own household only
  • - Provide personal place for non-resident children
  • - Plan special times for various household groupings

8. Risk Involvement Despite Little Support

  • - Include stepparents in school, religious, sports etc. activities
  • - Give legal permission for stepparent to act when necessary
  • - Continue stepparent-stepchild relationships after death or divorce of parent when caring has developed
  • - Stepparent include self in stepchild’s activities
  • - Find groups supportive of a blended families
  • - Remember that all relationships involve risk

GR8 Relationships—Pursuing the BEST in work, in life, in love.

Right Thinking—Right Relationships—Right NOW!!


I’m not sure of what the program was called that I was getting by email from you before, but I’d like that to continue.
In logging in to your site, my old password did not work, so I had to create a new one.
I’m hoping I will continue to get the same email messages I received before your web site update.

Thank you, Lissa

    Great Helper

    Since you signed up for the Blog, you will be on the email list also. And, as you noted, the passwords for the old site will still work there until we close it, but not on this new site. Thanks for staying with us!

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