Multiculturalism When Working with Blended Families
The number of blended families has been growing all over the world. Blended families have also been called mixed, step, reconstituted, and complex families. Just as the name is adaptable, so is the definition of blended families.
In many articles, and most research, a blended family is defined as one where one or both parents have children from a previous relationship. The definition has extended to describe those parents who were previously married and had children with their spouse and now are in a new relationship with a new family (Bumpass et al., 2000). Similarly, couples can have biological children from previous relationships, adopted children, and/or have children with their partner. Therefore, when working with blended families the discussion expands to step-siblings, step-grandparents, and the entire stepfamily.
Some specific challenges that are present when working with blended families can include:
- Sharing parents
- Sibling rivalry
- Stepparent discipline
- Legal challenges
- Scheduling conflicts
- Identify confusion
Therefore, when working with blended families, it’s especially important to look at the entire family system. Family systems theory recognizes that individuals are better understood as part of their family, the emotional unit, rather than individually. Families are interconnected with each member having their own role and rules. Members in the system interact and respond to one another in particular ways that align with “relationship agreements” (Hefner, 2014). Structural Family Therapy (SFT) is a form of treatment that examines patterns of communication that facilitate challenges in the family. The focal point of this method is shifting the family structure as opposed to strictly focusing on individual characteristics.
Here are some things to remember when utilizing a multicultural lens:
- Each family member is a part of a system
- All families are connected on some level emotionally
- The family composition affects all members
- Definitions of couples and family can be different
- There are sub-systems within systems
- Family members’ “duties” and “responsibilities” don’t stop at their role
Family relationships can be some of the most fulfilling and the most challenging. If you need help navigating family dynamics, Council for Relationships’ highly trained therapists can help with a wide range of issues facing individuals, couples, and families, and they have many therapists who specialize in working with blended families.