A blended family includes children from previous marriages as well as children born during the current marriage. Many people associate an ideal blended family with the American sitcom The Brady Bunch, in which a man with three boys married a woman with three girls. The step-siblings had to learn to adjust to life within the new dynamic of a new family.
One major adjustment many children must make in a blended family is a change in privacy and personal space. A large family may have to live together in a space designed for one spouse's original family, at least temporarily. If you are a child in such a family, you may be asked to give up part of your room or to move into an unfamiliar house. The key is to remain flexible and non-territorial. The room could be divided into equal parts, or bunk beds could be installed for maximum floor space. Consider living with a new step-sibling as a chance to bond with a friend, not a competition for attention from parents.
If you are one of the parents of a new blended family, you should understand that these adjustments will take some time. Before assigning rooms for the new family, carefully consider such factors as age, personality, interests, and birth order. Younger step-siblings may adjust well to communal living, but older step-siblings may bristle at the perceived loss of privacy. The oldest child of one parent may not mesh well with the youngest child of the other, or aggressive children might not respect more passive step-siblings. Be prepared for some unplanned room switching as siblings learn more about each other.
A difficult part of living in a blended family is the inevitable comparisons with the past. Original family members may be reluctant to accept step-siblings at first, since they serve as daily reminders of the present reality. Parents should understand how difficult it can be for children to let go of their past, especially following a divorce or the death of a parent. Playing the role of step-parent can be especially difficult, since children can honestly claim one is not their "real" parent. Some experts suggest allowing the children's original parent to act as the disciplinarian, since the role of a step-parent is already so challenging.
Parents and children living in a blended family often bond through shared activities. It may fall on parents to initiate the first family outings, but eventually, step-siblings should plan their own adventures. Attending sporting events or artistic performances involving step-children is also a good way for new parents to establish a bond. Children in such a family can be very sensitive about apparent favoritism, especially when it applies to original children over step-children.
One way to adjust to a blended family is to keep titles such as step-mother or step-brother optional. If you are a child and feel a strong bond with your new mother, it should be okay to call her Mom, rather than the excruciatingly correct step-mother. The same holds true for parents. Many children respond positively when a step-parent introduces them as his or her children, not 'my husband's kids' or 'my step-children'.