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Child psychologist weighs in on the effect of blended families on child development

Blended families have become the new trend in town. Just the other day we witnessed celebrity co-parents Zari and Diamond Platinumz hanging out together with their respective partners and they seemed pretty happy to be together in the same space.

However, in as much as the shift of a blended family is inevitable for families like Zari’s and Diamond’s, it doesn’t mean their children see things the same way. Blended families come with their own complications, yes, but I tend to believe that the parties that take the greatest hit are the children. For the kids, they have no choice but to accept what is happening. But how do they deal with it, and what exactly is the long-term psychological implication?

In this piece, child psychologist Ohawa Rawlings Ochieng sheds light on the complexities and challenges faced by children in blended families, emphasizing the impact on their emotional and psychological growth.

Blended families, where one partner becomes a stepparent to the children from a previous relationship, present a myriad of challenges that can significantly influence a child’s development. According to child psychologist Ohawa Rawlings Ochieng, integrating two families under one roof is rarely an easy transition, often marked by growing pains and adjustments for both children and adults involved.

“In a blended family setup, children are introduced to a stranger and are expected to establish connections and behave as if they’ve known them their entire lives,” notes Ochieng. “This fundamental change often leads to confusion and behavior changes in children, as they grapple with different parenting styles and attempt to navigate the shifting dynamics within the household.”

The early childhood expert highlights the potential misunderstandings between parents and children, where disciplinary actions may be taken without a deeper understanding of the emotional turmoil the children are experiencing. This misunderstanding could lead to feelings of isolation, resentment, or being unloved among the children, contributing to a toxic environment detrimental to their emotional well-being.

“For optimal emotional growth, parents should prioritize their own mental well-being to effectively support and guide their children through these challenging times,” advises Ochieng. However, the inability of a step-parent to offer the necessary care and support to their stepchildren can further complicate the situation.

One of the predominant challenges faced by children in blended families is sibling rivalry, which tends to intensify in such setups. Sharing parental attention and adapting to new relationships can exacerbate tensions among step-siblings, requiring couples to communicate effectively and present a united front in addressing these issues.

The expert emphasizes the importance of increased attention towards children within blended families, suggesting that parents need to involve children in family activities, ensuring their presence and support are consistently felt. Moreover, fostering open and respectful communication channels between children and step-parents is crucial for effective conflict resolution and understanding.

To mitigate these challenges, Ochieng recommends various strategies. Family programs led by experienced counseling professionals can assist children in understanding and coping with their new realities within the blended family structure. These programs address children’s fears, guilt, and concerns, ultimately alleviating many of the difficulties they face.

Ochieng further advises patience in allowing children to adjust at their own pace and emphasizes the role of the step-parent as an authority figure in discipline, following the transition from a more casual relationship during the dating period.