In the business world, you either keep evolving or you become extinct, it is that simple. It has been the same in the animal kingdom for centuries– either you adapt to your changing environment, or you will die. Change is a normal part of life, and especially within families, it is a naturally recurring theme– kids grow up, they move out, they get married, then maybe they will add to the family by having kids of their own; in the meantime, someone may get sick, die or divorce. Families are constantly being restructured with a variety of different characters– and this is precisely what has kept me so intrigued in the field of family law, but not everyone shares my enthusiasm in these changes.
Step-families in particular face a ton of challenges, especially gaining acceptance from the children. The term “blended families” unfortunately adds to the already palpable pressure (mainly from the adults) that everyone should somehow just gel. But blended family is really a misnomer– it sort of conjures up the impression of everyone being thrown into a blender at once, and out comes this amazing smoothie. Yeah, in reality this is rarely what happens, in fact a better image would be to think of a fruit salad in progress. Think more of a banana that is reluctantly co-existing with an orange, then some strawberries enter the mix along with a slightly acidic pineapple, and ever so slowly you need to convince the various fruit parts to appreciate the benefits they all bring to each other when combined into one happy family.
It can take years for people to acclimate to major changes in their family structure and step family dynamics. This is why experts caution adults to proceed slowly, and with caution, especially when little ones are involved. Transitions are difficult for many, especially children that may have a fear of the unknown or adults that previously suffered significant loss and don’t have a positive association with change.
Embracing change is a key life skill, but it is not inherent in everyone. So, be prepared for some rough patches and don’t hesitate to seek expert help as needed.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.