The idea of a healthy, blended family might seem like such a rare thing. How can you achieve happiness after the trauma of divorce? It’s challenging, sure – but it’s possible. One of the tricky aspects of blended families is that the parenting styles of each parent differ. One may be a stricter disciplinarian while the other may take a softer approach to parenting. Neither method is inherently better than the other, but integrating the two styles can be a challenge for both the parents and the children.
Men, in particular, sometimes find themselves at a loss as to how to integrate both authoritative and gentle parenting styles. Heteronormative cultural expectations state that men are supposed to act gruff and stoic, and not to show their children their feelings. Meanwhile, women are expected to nurture the children and be the homemakers. We know this is an antiquated notion as now, there are many SAHDs (Stay-At-Home-Dads) – the concept of ‘mom as the homemaker’ and ‘dad as the breadwinner’ isn’t accurate any longer. A crucial aspect of having a healthy blended family is empowering the man in the home so he can parent in a way that 1) works with their partner for the good of the children, and 2) supports a healthy relationship between parents.
When it Doesn’t Work
Parenting can often be a source of contention in the family. Children may have been used to one parenting style up to this point, and now must adapt to someone who is not a biological parent raising them differently. Children can become rebellious, acting out against the new parent’s way of dealing with household situations. Conflict between parents and children will lead to disharmony in the home, and can often devolve into yelling matches where no one wins.
Between the parents themselves, disagreements may arise on how to handle family situations. When this happens, one parent can be domineering and insist their way is best. An overbearing parent can elicit resentment from their partner, and in the case of men – a sense of emasculation. The parents are trying to build a life together, and while this includes uniting to raise all of the children, each parent wants to be sure their own biological children are being taken care of and treated fairly.
All of these things can come together to create a challenging environment for having a healthy blended family. Without some intervention, the problems may lead to a split in the family, breaking up the parents and disrupting the children’s lives yet again.
Family counseling offers hope
When things like interpersonal tension, abrasive attitudes, and an inability to find common ground begin to happen in blended families, there is help available. Family counseling is explicitly designed to aid in helping any family, blended or not, achieve healthy dynamics. Some people in the family might be apprehensive at the idea of family counseling. Many men may even be resistant to the idea, believing the false expectations that they espouse – they must handle the family business without any outside help.
The truth is, family counseling is empowering to both the parents and the children. It’s not a matter of not being able to control or manage your problems. Instead, it is admitting that the parents and children do not have all the answers and need help navigating the issues so a healthy dynamic can be achieved.
Just like one-on-one counseling, family counseling involves talking about stressors, problems, and concerns. The main difference is that you are doing this as a group. Sometimes the therapist may speak to a few of the family members separately, but as a whole, the sessions are geared to help the counselor understand current family dynamics, communication styles, and the role each family member plays in the household.
When everyone comes together
A healthy, harmonious family can be achieved through this type of unifying problem-solving. With the help of family counseling, problems, pitfalls, and potential issues can be discovered and dealt with in healthy ways. When everyone in the family is working together towards the common goal of a healthier, happier household, things that seemed insurmountable can be achieved.
One of the challenges of coming together in family counseling is time. One-on-one therapy depends on the therapists’ work hours and people’s varying schedules. In family counseling, you’ll have to juggle multiple schedules, dealing with work, school, extracurricular activities, and social lives. One way to conquer this challenge is through online family counseling, which allows greater flexibility with the busyness of the household.
Family counseling can be a great tool in creating a healthy blended family. It is something that many families use and is not a sign of weakness. Instead, it is a sign of strength to admit where we struggle and seek help. Blended families can be healthy and happy. Family counseling is one way to achieve that goal.
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