Integrating Families

Posted Oct 19, 2002
Last Updated Oct 26, 2011

Everyone knows of The Brady Bunch. The show was of a single mother with three daughters marrying a single father with three sons. The integration of the two households worked perfectly in the TV show, and the made-up family seemed to have no seams.

The real world has few Brady Bunches.

There are some tough issues that come up when two families coalesce into one household. Jealousy, emotional walls, conflicting disciplinary beliefs, and numerous other trapdoors suddenly pop up the moment two established families attempt to form a third, new family.

Before parents decide to move in with one another they should consider ways to dissolve problems before they arise by considering the backgrounds of all the different children.

Say a father has a single son. The two are very close, and there is a strong bond of love and respect. The father meets a woman with three children. The children seem to get along fine, and they’re all close in age. The parents want to move in together.

The very first thing the father needs to recognize is that his son will have issues with jealousy. Single children do not have to compete for the attention of their parents, and they enjoy undiluted exposure. Add some new kids to the mix, especially those that aren’t new siblings, and you will quickly see the child struggle.

Even more when a single child comes into a home with a group of other children who are already established. The established children already know that they are not the sole focus of attention, and they already know about sharing—even if they don’t like to share, they still know more clearly what sharing is.

The parent of a single child must find ways to make the child know that no love is lost when attention is spread out some. This challenge must be met head on, and all frustration must be suppressed. If the child feels his parent has lost love for him, one of the greatest pieces of his heart has been stolen.

Children who feel emotionally stranded build emotional walls against the apparent source of the abandonment. The child will put up a barrier to the other children and to the surrogate parent. These walls are not easily breached.

Dissimilar parenting styles are a major source of conflict in conglomerated homes. A parent who does not think much about discipline matched with a parent who has strict standards is always going to breed contention and eventual resentment. The parents’ different styles will confuse the children, and the result will likely be that the children behave better for one parent than the other—resulting in further problems in that one parent will become frustrated and jealous and the other will feel overburdened.

Parents will do out best if they form strategies to deal with these issues before they come into a new household. They will save themselves months of stress and perhaps years of heartache if they take some serious time to work these concerns out.

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