Blending Families When You Have Older or Adult Children

Older and adult children add a different dynamic to a blended family. They tend to have strong allegiances to their biological parents and are less likely to open up to the idea of welcoming a new parental figure so late in their lives. Sometimes they even feel threatened by the new marriage or serious relationship. They may feel as though too much of their biological parent’s attention will go to the new spouse or significant other, or that the new spouse or partner could inherit assets that they feel rightfully belong to them. So how do you blend with older or adult children?

Now that my own children are 27, almost 22, and almost 18, I accept the fact that they may not bond so well with my current fiancé. I do not expect that he or they will make a significant effort to develop relationships with each other. My oldest daughter is already married and living her own life in a different state. My second daughter is finishing up college and headed overseas for a couple of years, and my son is finishing up high school and heading to college. I feel like it would be unreasonable for me to put too many expectations on my adult children or my future husband to do something that is going to be totally unnatural for all of them. The best that I can do is open up doors of opportunities for them to forge organic relationships by making them all feel included. I also do my best to make sure that my future husband and his children, as well as my children continue to feel my love for all of them as we transition into the full on blend.

It seems like it would be easier to blend with older or adult children, but it is not. It can be downright awkward at times trying to figure out how to navigate all of the various personalities, needs and relationships. Take Sam and Beverly for instance. Sam has never been married and has no children. Beverly was married once before and has 2 adult children ages 19 and 23. Sam and Beverly are currently considering marriage but Sam is concerned that Beverly’s adult children do not like or accept him.

Beverly’s 19-year-old son Shane, and 23-year- old daughter Sierra, still live with her in the house that they have lived in all of their lives. Beverly and her ex-husband Bill have been divorced for 6 years and Sam is her first real relationship since the divorce. Sam comes to Beverly’s house at least 2-3 times per week. Each time that he comes Shane goes to his room and slams the door, and Sierra either leaves or also closes herself off in her room. Beverly has had several conversations with them in an attempt to reassure them that Sam is not trying to take the place of their father. However, Shane and Sierra remain unconvinced and uninterested in establishing any sort of relationship with Sam.

Many blended families experience this when one or both partners have older or adult children. So should Beverly and Sam call it quits and forget about their love? Absolutely not! This is one of those things that they will have to power through in order to get to the other side. Here are a few things that they can do to navigate the landscape of attempting to blend with Beverly’s adult children:

  1. Realize that older or adult children may never accept your new spouse or partner. As bad as Beverly wants Shane and Sierra to accept Sam, the truth is that it may never happen.
  2. Beverly should have a talk with Shane and Sierra to establish ground rules for when Sam comes over. At least a hello before disappearing. No slamming doors. No expectations that they will accept him but they are required to be respectful of what she is currently establishing.
  3. Beverly can also discuss the role that Sam will play in her life as they move toward marriage. She can assure Shane and Sierra that Sam is not taking their father’s place or taking over their home.
  4. Beverly should also discuss the disposition of their home and any assets that she has in the event of her death. Little does she know, this is probably a pressing issue on her children’s minds. This is a good time to employ the help of an Estate Planning Attorney to update her estate plan.
  5. Beverly and Sam should have a serious talk about their expectations of each other and their expectations of Shane and Sierra. They have to be realistic in their expectations and not put too much pressure on any of them to try and forge relationships. If the relationships form at all, they will form organically and generally through shared experiences.
  6. Beverly will have to be patient. Many parents want their new spouses and significant others to immediately embrace their children and treat them as their own. While Sam may have the desire to do this, Shane and Sierra are clearly not going to make this easy for him. If they ever open up at all, it is going to take time. No amount of force will make it happen any quicker.
  7. The whole family should attend blended family counseling to have an open discussion about everyone’s new roles and how they will function going forward. This is a great opportunity for everyone to air their concerns and work on solutions to make the transition as smooth as possible.
  8. Beverly and Sam should consider purchasing a shared home of their own. Sam can see that Shane and Sierra clearly do not want him in their home. While this is not a reason for Beverly to just stop her relationship, this is likely to be an ongoing issue for a lot of reasons. Establishing their own marital home will give Sam a lot more leverage in the home as opposed to moving into an already established household with adult children.

Blending with older or adult children is not impossible. It is just very different from blending with younger children. None of it is easy. It all takes a great deal of extra effort to make it work. Two people with the right mindset and a deep love and respect for each other can do the work to make their blended family work no matter the age of the children.  

Join my Facebook group DMV Happy Blended Family Network for more content related to financial and estate planning for blended families, and overall blended family support and information. https://www.facebook.com/groups/dmvhappyblendedfamilynetwork/

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