The Family Merger

By Teri K. Reisser
By Paul Reisser
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Be intentional when blending families to smooth the process.

Say the words ideal blended family, and for many people, “The Brady Bunch” comes to mind. But in real marriages that include children from a previous union, you don’t create a successful family merger in tidy 30-minute installments.

A remarrying couple often fails to realize that they are far more excited about the union than their kids. For most children, Mom or Dad’s new marriage presents unwelcome challenges:

  • Disloyalty issues. Remarriage can put a child in a terrific bind. Does friendliness with a stepparent constitute disloyalty to the biological parent?
  • Family position. The merger of two families often results in the loss of status and privileges for the children involved. For example, a youngest child may find herself shifted to a less strategic position in the new lineup. And an eldest or only child — who perhaps assumed the role of surrogate partner after his parents’ divorce — may be demoted from “numero uno” to a discouraging “numero whatever-o.”
  • New rules. The new marriage represents yet another adjustment to rules arising from multiple (and rarely consistent) sets of adult authority. 


Here are some ways to smooth the process of blending families:

  • Decide together what the ground rules will be for all the kids. You and your new spouse need to align your assumptions about parenting, especially when it comes to setting limits.
  • If at all possible, avoid moving into one or the other’s existing home. Otherwise, one family may feel like their territory has been invaded, and the other may feel like interlopers in someone else’s home.
  • Make time to listen. Have regular family meetings to talk about what’s working and what isn’t. Each member of the family should be given the opportunity to express feelings and respectfully make suggestions.
  • Be patient. Families do not blend quickly. In a best-case scenario, it will take a full year for children to adjust to the new arrangements.

One final thought: The marriage relationship — blended or otherwise — takes priority over all others. So keep your marriage strong. That commitment is the foundation upon which you will create a harmonious community under your roof.


Focus on the Family has resources and counseling to help you and your family. You can contact us during normal business hours at:

(800) A-FAMILY (232-6459)
[email protected]

Or you can find resources, referrals and articles to help you right now.

Adapted from Your Spouse Isn’t the Person You Married by Dr. Paul and Teri Reisser. Copyright © 2010 by Dr. Paul and Teri Reisser. Used by permission. 


Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.
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About the Author

Paul Reisser

Dr. Paul Reisser is a private practice family physician in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Since earning his M.D. from the UCLA School of Medicine and completing his residency at Santa Monica Hospital, Dr. Reisser has accumulated more than 30 years of experience in the area of primary care medicine.

Teri Reisser
Teri K. Reisser

Teri K. Reisser, M.S., M.F.T., is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has been counseling couples and post-abortive women since 1984.

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