This week, Alain Nijs, a partner in Greenille by Laga,
highlights the unique features of family dynamics in blended
Blended families (including stepfamilies) are common today.
Statistics show that in some countries a growing number of families
have shifted away from the model of the "intact" or
"nuclear" family, composed of the original biologically
bonded mother, father and children. In other words, these families
have gone through various transitions: a breakdown (divorce),
remarriage or another form of living together relationship.
Research and studies have already addressed the effects of such
life events on children, on parents and on family dynamics in
Blended families face unique challenges and as a family
enterprise consultant, I recognize that when working with blended
families, there are special considerations that need to be taken
Blended families create a complex "bi- or
multi-nuclear" family system, often both spouses having their
own children from different marriages. It would be mistaken to see
such a family as "The Brady Bunch", referring to the
seventies' US television series, where all (step)
children's problems were solved in less than half an hour. The
dream of becoming one big happy family on the contrary often
contradicts the many potential conflicts that can be endemic to
From a personal perspective, I realized this whilst I was
consulting on a case involving a stepfamily with children (of age)
on both the father's and the mother's side. All stepfamily
members appeared to get along pretty well. However, during my
individual meetings with the family members, very quickly, it
became clear that most of the children were struggling with some
typical blended family issues and questions, ranging from the need
for "one on one" contact with their biological parent to
more money-related questions.
Being a parent in a stepfamily myself, these concerns sound very
familiar. Potential conflicts (e.g. of loyalty) can be omnipresent,
as can be a mixed set of feelings, such as guilt, shame or fear of
loss of territory and position. All this needs to be managed with
Nevertheless I strongly believe in the ability to create
positive dynamics within a well-functioning blended family and that
the complexity can be enriching for both children and step
To grow into such a well-functioning blended family however,
efforts must be put into building a (new) family system,
recognizing and understanding the (new) dynamics and one's
roles and responsibilities. This requires:
Open communication (in the blended
family itself and in the nuclear families);
Recognition and expression of
Showing genuine interest in each
other (never assume);
Common blended family values.
Stepmothers, stepfathers and stepchildren aren't wicked by
I prefer speaking of bonus-parents or bonus-children or, as it
is being increasingly used in Belgium, plus-parents or
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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The well documented case of Heather Ilott and her attempt to overturn her Mother's will appears to have come to an end with the Supreme Court ruling that, whilst she may have be granted some money from her Mother's estate, it is a far smaller sum than the Court of Appeal awarded.
A discussion on the law as to how online items pass on our death.
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