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Blended families

A colorful coexistence

This type of family life is often called "blended family" because the origins of the individual parts are just as different as the patchwork quilt that gives it its name.

There are many possible variations in blended families: stepparents, stepfather families, stepmother families, families with children and stepchildren, those in which the children live permanently and those in which the children only visit temporarily.

What they all have in common is that a new parent joins the biological parent - and with them there are often numerous conflicts.

Stepfamily history

Until well into the 20th century, the reason for remarriage was usually the death of one of the parents. This also expresses the prefix "step". It comes from the Germanic language and means "robbed". A quick remarriage after the children were "robbed" by the early death of a parent was a matter of course and necessary for a long time in order to secure the family socially and financially.

With advances in medicine, death of a parent at a young age has become far less common today. However, the high separation and divorce rates mean that many stepfamilies still arise. The need for social and financial security is rarely decisive today.

The acceptance of single parents has grown significantly, and if necessary, the state will give needy partial families a helping hand. However, the need for a "healthy" family and a happy partnership is also pronounced among many divorced parents.

Another "real" family

Parents who are newly in love are often exuberant when they have found a new steady partner. They are often firmly convinced that their children will receive the new family member with open arms.

Children, on the other hand, often find it difficult to accept a new partner from their parents. This is especially true if the new parent is presented as a replacement for the parent who no longer lives in the same household.

The longing to be a "real" family again is also pronounced in children, although these often still hope that the original condition will be restored. The move in of a new partner makes them painfully aware that the first family has been irrevocably dissolved.

Congratulations, it's a ... father?

Father or mother become human beings by birth. However, becoming a stepfather or mother is not such a straightforward process. Unlike birth parents, stepparents sometimes have little time to adjust to children.

Her new role also changes her life in one fell swoop. A long-time bachelor may suddenly become the father of two school-age children, or the mother of an only child may become part of an extended family with four children.

In the new household, stepparents meet a more or less well-rehearsed part of the family in which they are the youngest member. Many feel helpless at first: The expectations of a step-parent are hardly defined by society. This creates creative freedom, but also leads to uncertainty.

Many stepparents initially suffer from fear of failure, especially if they had no previous experience in raising children or housekeeping. In addition, many stepparents initially feel and often are outsiders in the new household.

Patchwork - a new family model

Many genealogists consider the blended family to be the family model of the future: It is to be expected that many young people will grow up in not just one but in several families.

It is difficult to say how many stepfamilies there are in Germany today, as only common children are recorded in the case of marriages. The Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth assumes, however, that between 7 and 13 percent of all households in Germany have children in stepfamilies.

Alternative family forms such as stepfamilies, but also single-parent families or same-sex parenting couples pose great challenges for all members of the family: They need courage, patience and a lot of tolerance.

At the same time, however, they also offer a great opportunity: genealogists have found that children who grow up in alternative family forms are often better able to take on responsibility, react more sensitively to social discrimination and have more flexible perceptions of the roles of men and women than children from traditional families.