Six Ways To Thrive As A Blended Family

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated July 3, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Parenting and family relationships can come with all sorts of challenges, and blended families are no different. Some of the unique challenges that those who form this type of family may face can be difficult, but their experiences can also be highly rewarding. If you’re part of or considering forming a blended family, the tips we discuss here could help set you and your family members up for success.

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A rewarding and challenging experience: Blended families, defined

A stepfamily, or blended family, is defined as “a family unit formed by the union of parents, one or both of whom brings a child or children from a previous union(s) into the new household,” according to the American Psychological Association.

Stepfamilies are becoming increasingly common. Statistics indicate that as many as 1,300 new blended families are formed each day in the US. 

This type of family can face a set of challenges in everyday life that non-blended families may not, which is why specific tips and resources that address this unique experience can be so important. Some examples of common challenges of stepfamily life can include:

  • Children having trouble adjusting to a new living situation
  • Children having trouble adjusting to having new half-siblings or step-siblings
  • Addressing disagreements about family rules or routines
  • Finding ways to spend time together that everyone can enjoy
  • Merging parenting styles with your new spouse or partner
  • Feeling overwhelmed with too many changes to day-to-day life
  • Handling any conflict with biological parents who are former partners

Tips for a successful blended family

Each family’s situation is different. That said, there are some general strategies you might consider that could help the members of your blended family feel seen and cared for and smooth the transition of combining households and/or family time.

1. Give it time

A new blended family—especially if this entails combining households—can feel a bit chaotic at first. It can take time for the members to adjust logistically, emotionally, and in other ways, so patience and compassion along the way are generally key. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry indicates that it often takes up to two years for blended families to adjust to the new situation.

While this can seem like a long time if you’re just starting out in this process, know that you’re likely to see positive progress and milestones along the way. Staying consistent, being mindful of the changing needs of the child(ren) involved, and reminding them that they are loved and listened to can all be especially helpful during this period.

2. Provide structure

Children can be very adaptable and resilient, especially in the right environments. To provide them with the support they need as your family transitions, it’s often helpful to ensure that there is structure and routines in place. Consistent bedtimes, chores and responsibilities, regular family bonding time, and a stable living environment are all examples of these that you and your partner(s) can set up in order to benefit the children you are now raising together.

As they adjust to all the changes in their lives, these predictable structures can help them feel grounded. Plus, routines can benefit kids over the longer term, too. For example, research suggests that children who have a consistent and early bedtime may experience improved sleep, increased emotional stability and language development, healthy parental attachment, and other potential benefits.

3. Leave room for flexibility

Although structure is important, sticking to it too rigidly and not allowing for feedback and changes can cause problems. Sometimes, the way you originally envisioned some element of your blended family’s life might not end up being realistic. Leaving room for changes in plans and new feelings that may arise can be helpful. 

For example, in their excitement, a new parent or new stepparent might put a strong emphasis on spending time bonding as an entire family right away. However, this could be too much for some children—especially adolescents and/or those who are having an especially difficult time with the transition. So even though you may have imagined engaging in this type of close family time every other night, adjusting your expectations to give the children a bit more space at first could go a long way towards easing the transition over the longer term.

4. Manage relationships with exes

If both partners bring children from previous relationships into a new blended family, there’s the potential for at least two ex-partners to continue being deeply involved in their daily lives—particularly if the parents of the children live nearby. Those who have custody agreements with co-parents may have to interact with their ex and/or their partner’s ex frequently. Doing your best to keep these relationships cordial, stable, and calm will typically benefit the children’s lives and help avoid conflict.

5. Keep the lines of communication open between family members

The value of communication is often emphasized when discussing relationships of all kinds, including blended family relationships. Setting aside time to regularly check in and communicate about how things are going can ensure that all members have the chance to discuss their feelings, frustrations, suggestions, and requests about the new family dynamic. 

Making sure everyone feels comfortable partaking and understands that their opinions are valued can also help. This could be achieved by teaching children about what it means to practice active listening, setting rules related to respect, honesty, interrupting, etc. when someone else is talking, and inviting everyone to set and communicate their own boundaries as needed.

A therapist can support you through family challenges

6. Consider speaking with a therapist

Parenting can be hard work, and blended family dynamics can present additional unique challenges. If you and/or your spouse or partner(s) are experiencing these, you may benefit from speaking with a trained therapist. They can help equip you with tools and techniques to approach problems that may arise and to keep your relationships strong. 

Many people with children find it difficult to arrange their schedules to attend regular in-person therapy sessions. In cases like these, online therapy can represent a viable alternative. With an individual online therapy platform like BetterHelp—or ReGain, for couples—you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging from the comfort of home or anywhere you have an internet connection. Research suggests that online therapy can be as effective as in-person sessions in many cases, so it may be worth exploring this option if it’s more convenient for you.


When you and a new partner(s) choose to combine your families, you have the chance to create new traditions, memories, and connections as a blended unit. It is natural, however, to experience challenges and growing pains along the way. Some strategies for helping manage the transition could include creating structure for your children, keeping lines of communication open, and remaining flexible. Whether you’re a dad with several new stepchildren, a partner who is new to parenting, or in any other blended family situation, you might also meet with a therapist if you need additional support.
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