Navigating the Unique Challenges of Blended Families with Grown Children

When we find love, there’s a natural human desire to share lives and forge new connections. That drive can prove complicated and vexing at times—particularly when partners are bringing grown children into the mix. What can be an exciting and joyful time for parents can present a unique emotional challenge for their children.

Let’s explore what difficulties you might expect to face, and how to manage any issues that might arise.

Managing Expectations

When blending families with grown children, it’s important to understand that not everyone may be as excited as you, and set realistic expectations accordingly. Instead of jumping straight to a utopian vision of fully blended holidays and family vacations, start small.

Your grown children may have very different political and cultural backgrounds—and they may be at a stage in life where they’re focused on their own families or careers rather than building new relationships.

While each situation is unique, many families benefit from taking a slow approach to blending their families, especially when grown children are in the mix. Building something lasting and meaningful won’t happen overnight. Be prepared for this process to take time.

Create New Traditions

When blended families rush into incorporating each other into existing traditions, it can create opportunity for friction. An alternative that works for many families is to focus on creating new traditions that can be shared together, while preserving existing family traditions.

Over time, as comfort develops between your grown children and their families, you can look at ways to invite others and incorporate them into celebrations.

 Some ideas for new traditions you may be able to embrace:

photo of a big family standing together for portrait

  • Hosting dinner either before or after the holidays.
  • Planning an annual picnic, trip to the theater, or similar outing.
  • Scheduling regular monthly activities such as game nights or barbeques.

By creating new traditions, you give your children opportunities to get to know each other and establish relationships. Game nights or other activities may help them create bonds through a mixture of teamwork and play.

Maintain Independent Relationships

 Your children may feel threatened by your new relationships and any bond between you and your partner’s children. Accordingly, it’s important for you to make time to maintain independent relationships with your own children, to reassure them that their bond with you is still something special.

By the same token, it’s important to recognize that your partner and their children may also need to maintain independence. Especially in the case of families that experienced the loss of a parent, or went through a difficult split, they may have healing to do on their own that requires a separate space.

Giving the people we love the space they need may be difficult, but it also strengthens our bonds when they see we have their best interests at heart.

Open Communication

As parents, it can be tempting to believe we know what’s best for our children—but it’s important for us to respect their perspectives and desires. In keeping with that, it’s healthy to ask what your children are hoping for and what they’re nervous about with regard to being part of a blended family. By the same token, be open and honest with them about your own hopes and fears.

When you do this, go into it with communication as the goal. Don’t attempt to pressure your children to change their mind or solve any problems or assuage any fears in the moment. Listen, share, and make a plan for later.

Getting Support

Blending families with grown children can be a tricky process. If you and your partner are struggling to bring things together, consider scheduling a free consultation today. I’d be happy to talk to you and learn more about your unique situation, and help you make a plan to build a blended family filled with harmony.