Blended Families and Blurred Lines
Millions of the "Boomer" generation are most likely to have step-children; many more so than in any other generation.
When your adult widowed or divorced parent remarries, it is (hopefully) a delightful celebration.
Most "children" are happy that Mom or Dad are no longer alone. They are happy that their parent has someone to share the rest of their life with.
The big issues will arise in a decade or two for the Boomers when the complications of caregiving will unearth some interesting dilemmas facing blended families.
Just imagine adding the complex layer of communicating with step-parents and/or step-siblings to the already complicated conversations one should already be having with their own aging parents.
Most likely, grown adults have weaker ties with their "new" step-parent and, depending on where everyone lives, have less contact and feel less obligation toward a step-parent. This isn't necessarily always the case, but the strength of life long family connections and the familiarity of the personalities of the parent and children in biological families is a fact.
It's hard to know what to do when the lines are blurred in blended families.
Think about the following:
1. Would it be any different if he or she was your biological parent? It's hard to know...biological families also have plenty of conflict and avoid discussing or dealing with caregiving issues and responsibilities as parents age.
2. Illness and dependency can prove to be very difficult topics to broach with a step-parent...let alone a biological parent.
The time is to talk about the following topics is when you and your parents are healthy:
- Who exactly will take care of your parent or step-parent if either of them become sick?
- What if the step-siblings disagree on the care of a parent or step-parent?
- What are the responsibilities of the step-child versus the biological child in caring for a parent?
- What are the financial obligations and consequences? Who pays for what?
- Does caregiving automatically fall to the adult who is closest geographically?
- What if a step-sibling is not willing to care for their biological parent?
- Who is going to do what?
- Is your step-parent willing to ask for direction or help?
- Whose responsibility is it to intervene when something goes really wrong?
- Has it been determined and made clear whether or not the adult children or the new spouse has the decision making authority?
- What happens when one of the parents dies? As a step-child are you still responsible for your step-parent?
Blended families are already complicated enough when everyone is healthy. Some children have two sets of parents if both of their biological parents remarried. This is not an unfamiliar situation.
You can bet that these blended families will face more complicated matters in later life.
Talk. Listen. Take notes and communicate.
Try your best to make the blurred lines a bit clearer.