Dr. Dana Answers Questions on Blended Family Problems

We get all types of questions from married couples across the country (and around the world!), so when we come across one that may be able to help others in need, we can’t help but share it!

This question about blended families seemed like perfect opportunity to address an issue that affects many, many second marriages.


My wife and I have a great relationship. The only thing we seem to struggle with is our kids. She has two from a previous marriage, I have one from a previous marriage, and we have one together. Strangely, we do not seem to fight over our mutual child, but are constantly bickering about how she parents her two daughters. Can you help us all get along?

– Nathan


Dear Nathan,

blended families are difficult. They require a thorough understanding of the dynamics involved, constant communication, and above all else, a lot of patience. Not knowing the specifics involved in your parenting differences, I can only speak generally about the most common blended family issue: a disagreement about who is responsible for parenting whom.

Blended families aren't always like the Brady Bunch.
Blended families aren’t always like the Brady Bunch.

In general, the guideline I recommend is that the new spouse should wait to become an equal parenting figure until half as many years have passed as the age of the child (i.e. if you got married when her daughter was eight years old, she will not, and should not, see you as an equal parenting figure until she’s twelve).

In the meantime, the new parent should act like a babysitter. For example, you would say something like, “It’s time for you to go to bed because your mother wants you to be in bed at 8:30,” or she might say to your child, “No honey, you can’t have a soda. Your dad doesn’t like you to have them after six o’clock.”

This can be a difficult role for a new parent to adopt as they see many opportunities to parent their spouse’s children. However, starting this process too soon will only lead to resentment on the child’s part, as well as protectiveness on the part of the biological parent. This is not to say, however, that parenting issues should not be discussed. If you have an opinion about bedtimes, sodas, or more, feel free to privately discuss this with your spouse and, hopefully, get on the same page about your joint family rules.

With this information in mind, hopefully you can take a more insightful approach to any turmoil in your blended family, and understand that it isn’t going to be easy for the kids to adopt a new authority figure. Blended families can be tough, but with the right approach (and a good amount of patience), everyone truly can get along!


For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com

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Robert 11 years ago

I'm dealing with this exact issue in my new marriage. Thanks for the advice.

Idy 11 years ago

Sadly this is the main reason I am getting divorced, my husband and I have being together for 17 years and his kids are now 21 and 25 years old, we do have a 10 years old son together and I just found out he is having an affair, he blames me for a lack of support raising his kids BUT when we started our relationship he never let me to put any stop to their behavior he always said it was not my problem and his ex wife managed all the situations and now that they even cannot get alone with each other it is my fault and my responsibility because I never helped him...What shout I do????? I purchased this system and he said he does not need it and the only way he comes back is if I let his son into our house( note that he has drug addiction problems and he turns aggressive), I said I am sorry but this is not the solution because it is my job to raise my son in a good environment and he is still blaming me for everything.

Kathy 11 years ago

Blended families suck, sorry! Well mine does. I wouldn't recommend it for anyone. My husband has 3 girls ages 12, 17 & 21. My son is 21. We don't have any children together. We are constantly " fighting " about one or more of the children. Overall just not worth all the headache and drama. And to make things worse neither of us gets along with the others ex. Think long and hard if you are thinking about getting into a similiar situation. It's no Brady Brunch!

JC 11 years ago

Dr. Dana misunderstood Nathan's problem. He has trouble with his wife, not her kids.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 11 years ago

Idy, I am sorry to hear that your husband is blaming you for everything. Do the two of you communicate with each other about all of the issues you are facing? You may also find it helpful to check out this article on communication: https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/blog/how-to-improve-communication-in-your-marriage-today/

Mike_Olsen_SMN 11 years ago

Kathy, I hope you and your husband are able to work out the differences you face when it comes to raising your family. Having great communication between the two of you could really make a difference. There are many articles on the blog about how to improve communication in a marriage. Please take some time to check these articles out. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/communication-in-marriage/

Mark 11 years ago

I really can't wait until both my wife's kids and my kids are grown, so I don't have to play pseudo parent to half of the children at my house.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 11 years ago

Mark, In addition to this article on blended families, here is a video I would like you to check out on parenting. Hopefully you will find some great advice in this video. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/important-problem/parenting-yt/

Angie 11 years ago

how does being married to a sex addict for 30 yrs affect how I would implement your principles?

Mike_Olsen_SMN 11 years ago

Robert, Thanks for reading!

Mike_Olsen_SMN 11 years ago

Angie, A very important thing to remember in all relationships is communication. If you are having an issue with your husband's behavior, be sure to talk about it. There are some great articles and videos on communicating with your significant other. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/communication-in-marriage/

peterd 8 years ago

I want to leave my wife but feel really bad because she will be devastated and her family will hate me. I'm very confused and am seeking advise, or stories from someone in a similar situation

peterd 8 years ago

I want to leave my wife but feel really bad because she will be devastated and her family will hate me. I'm very confused and am seeking advise, or stories from someone in a similar situation