3 Must-Have Conversations Before You Start a Blended Family

BY: - 17 May '12 | Blended Families

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Earlier this week I wrote a post titled 4 Must-Have Conversations Before You Get Married. It’s been very well received with lots of comments, views and social shares on sites like Facebook but there was one comment that moved me the most. A reader named “Catehess” mentioned that additional conversations were necessary in blended family situations. That comment sparked my idea to create another post dedicated just to my blended families out there. You know that you have a special place here in BMWK so I thought that was a great topic and wanted to dedicate a list of necessary conversations before marriage just to you. Follow along below and let us know if we left anything out in the comment section.

1. Do they have a _________ parent roaming around somewhere? That blank can stand for a lot of things: biological, crazy, senseless, drama-filled, simple or even good things like caring, responsible or loving. But be prepared for the first batch of adjectives and find out what you’re up against. If they have a Looney Tunes biological parent that’s fine as long as you know what you’ve signed up for. I’ve seen it happen on a few occasions where the step-parent was ambushed once they got into the marriage by external drama that their spouse probably knew would happen. If their biological parent falls into the second group it would be great to start forming a team upfront where each member plays their part to ensure the best outcome for all of the children who are involved. We had a great example of that in our 3rd film Men Ain’t Boys. Two men who co-parent their daughter on an amazing level. The two of them combined with their daughter’s mom, form a trio that ensures that she has everything that she needs in order to succeed.

2. How will discipline be handled? Discipline is a tricky subject even in non-blended families. When you add that extra dynamic into the situation it takes it to an entirely different level. Most people view discipline through a lens in which they were disciplined as children and how they think that worked out. Since we were all raised differently it’s common for a couple to view discipline differently. In blended families the non-biological parent can be put into a situation where they are constantly judged on whether they would treat their child the same way. I’ve heard many different schools of thought on how a couple should handle this situation but honestly I think it’s something that depends on the couple and on the child. You have to do what works for you and your relationship. For more info on discipline in a blended family check out this post that Ronnie wrote a while back.

3. What happens if everything isn’t perfect right away?   A few years ago we attended a marriage conference called Smart Marriages. During the conference Ronnie attended a session on blended families. During the session she was surprised to find out that it could take 3x’s the child’s age for them to come around to accepting the new family structure. Of course this meant the older the child the longer it will take. You’ve already heard it a million times before but here it is again – The Brady Bunch was some made for TV mess. It can happen like that but normally it doesn’t, especially with older children. The conversation you need to have upfront is what will happen if things aren’t perfect? Contrary to popular belief some kids will try to break your marriage up. Will you be able to keep it together? Will you allow cracks in the foundation of your marriage? Will you keep trying to make it right or will you walk away from your relationship and your newly formed family at some point?


These are just three of many conversations that you can have prior to blending a family but hopefully they’ll head you in the right direction. BMWK family, what conversations did we miss? What would you add to the list? What difficulties have you encountered that you wish you had talked about?

About the author

Lamar Tyler wrote 2227 articles on this blog.

Lamar Tyler is co-creator BlackandMarriedWithKids.com. He also is the co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing.


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9 WordPress comments on “3 Must-Have Conversations Before You Start a Blended Family

  1. Mrs. Mac

    How the step-parent would be addressed.

    When I first met my husband’s two daughters he told them to call me Ms. Darlena, out of respect. I didn’t have a problem with it. Five years later, he highly regrets it. I told him that he shouldn’t regret it because even though his girls were young, they wouldn’t want to call a woman they just met “mommy.” In his first marriage, his ex-wife daughter called him “daddy” even though he wasn’t her biological father.
    He also doesn’t like for them to refer to me as their step-mother, and he doesn’t like for me to refer to them as my step-daughters. He doesn’t like the word “step”, which I could understand. I guess it’s because over the years the girls and I became closer & it now bothers my husband. I can roll with the punches because I’m a simple person, but I wouldn’t want to force the girls to address me differently, even though at times they playfully call me “ma”. In the beginning of the relationship its appropriate because you’re being respectful to the other parent and the children are being respectful to you. As the years go by, depending on your relationship, the word “step” introduces a distant dynamic. When (if) my husband and I start to have children, he would feel uneasy if I were categorizing the kids. Its easy for me to change, for the sake of my husband but the girls may have to make that decision for themselves or that’s a conversation that my husband can have with them. IDK! So, yes that is another (small) concern for blended families.

  2. Tonya

    One concern I have when dealing with blended familes is the in law drama. It is common to have that kind of drama from time to time, but what are you to do when the in laws see “their” kids for who they used to be and not who they’ve become? What do you do when that is the one thing that can potentially make or break the marriage up? I won’t pretend and say it is a friend. I am dealing with that and have been for two years now. My daughter has a problem with things that isn’t acceptable with me and society. I address the issue as do my husband, but the issue still remains. When it is addressed, she goes back and make it seem as though she has fallen victim to a very cruel and wicked mom (as she calls me by choice). They don’t know the complete situation but when they hear what has been told to them, they call or text my husband with it and causes drama in the home. I was raised to respect my elders and other people, but from time to time, it becomes a struggle to maintain my composure and be mature about it. They don’t want to believe the things that she does. They only want me to be a non existing factor in her life because I am determined to get and keep her on the straight and narrow. This is just the tip of the iceburg, but for the sake of keeping to the task at hand, I will only let that tip be shown. In the movie, I believe You Saved Me (can’t quite remember which one) it said that the “step” isn’t allowed to be the bad person. What do you do in a situation where the biological doesn’t do anything about severe issues and but they must be resolved or addressed to prevent the issue from escalating to something else? I gues those are the two things I think needing to be addressed too. Sorry if I took up too much time.

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  4. Nikki

    @Tonya, this is one of the reasons I don’t discipline my husband’s children. The first time we had an issue, his youngest called home to say my son was “messing with her” and said she wanted to come home. This started a fury of calls and texts which ended up with my husband explaining himself to his ex’s mother and sister. I was livid. Because I’m not going to be explaining myself to anyone outside of my home about my parenting choices, I leave the parenting of his children to him, and I parent mine.

    We tried the first few years to be fully ‘blended’ but for many, it’s a fairy tale. It sounds nice but it’s very complicated to pull off and can lead to so much stress. Our lives have improved with us dropping the Brady Bunch act.

    I don’t think the kids are generally at fault either…I think that as adults, we’ve made this series of choices that affects them as much as it affects us, yet they have no real input. And then, when/if they rebel a bit, they’re seen as starting trouble/stirring the pot. I read, right after we got married, that the “worst” age to blend was adolescence (10-13). I couldn’t agree more! You’re asking kids who are smack dab in the middle of wrestling with the very essence of who they are to make a HUGE change in lifestyle. It’s HARD!

  5. Mrs. Mac

    Having these conversations as well as familial support (of the inlaws) is SO important. I have 2 biological sons, a son from my ex’s relationship, and my husband has a son, so at any time we may have between 2 and 4 boys in our home. We and our extendeds inforce that they are all brothers and equal in our eyes. All of the homes have rules and all of the adults involved demand respect, leadership from the eldest child (my bio son) and we believe in nipping bad behavior/negative attitudes in the bud. Thankfully and fortunately all of the adults have their heads on straight, and reinforce the messages with the kids privately and with one another. Even with all this, blending families is STILL a work in progress.

  6. Pingback: Blended Families Week: A Great Way to Begin a Blended Family | Black and Married With Kids.com - A Positive Image of Marriage and Family

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