Today’s family system is increasingly more diverse than the traditional nuclear family, which consisted solely of husband and wife (1st marriage) and their biological children. As the definition of “family” has evolved, so too, has the need for a greater understanding of the psychology of the family system, especially in regards to children and adolescents. Each family member’s role, once clearly defined, has become ambiguous. Family relationships have become increasingly complex, and the original family rules do not always apply. These shifts in the family dynamic can evoke various emotions in the children and adolescents involved. They may experience feelings of guilt, sadness, resentment, fear, and confusion. Their behavior may be inconsistent and unpredictable, leaving parents feeling anxious and frustrated.
In my clinical practice, I strive to involve parents and family members whenever it is possible and appropriate. I often integrate family sessions into the child/teen’s treatment plan, so I can affect change more thoroughly. One of the challenges that arise with blended families includes renegotiating family rules. I also work with children on accepting a new stepparent and his/her own biological children into the family, and on easing the transition when visiting back and forth with biological parents. Psychological treatment can be a highly effective, and often essential, intervention for strengthening the blended family and its richly complex dynamic.