'Blended families' on the rise

Research shows that about half of all American families are blended, which means a family unit has children from a previous marriage.

Parenting is never easy but with that blending often comes financial and emotional strains. When a marriage breaks-up, there is conflict. Sometimes those hard feelings spill over into a new blended household and there can be other problems.

Jeremy and Ryan Burns have been married for more than year. Their family is a case of yours, mine and ours. They have four children from previous marriages and one child together.

"Coming together we had to learn each others grumpy days and happy days, what to do and what not to do," Ryan Burns says.

"They thought that their mother was being replaced," Jeremy Burns says.

Even as they sort out emotional differences, the Burns also face financial strains.

Ryan Burns' daughter receives some financial support from her biological father. But Jeremy Burns' children don't receive financial help from their biological mother.

Marie Johnson, executive director of the Family Success Center in Gadsden, says it's important for couples to look at finances before they marry.

"Look at that budget. look at that child support, maybe they hadn't paid it, maybe they have back-pay. There are a bundle of issues that come," Johnson says.

Experts also say financial budgeting can help down the line. College costs, estate planning and holiday trips can become very complicated in a blended family.

Tips for building a healthy blended family:

Give relationship-building time. A parent shouldn't expect instant love from all children.

Discuss disciplinary roles with your spouse.

Learn about child development. A child's behavior may not be a reflection of a blended environment.

Build relationships with each child on a one-on-one basis.

"We advise kitchen table discussions. We are going to all sit down and we are going to talk about what is happening, we either have money for this or we don't and this is why," Johnson says.

The Family Success Center in Gadsden is holding a Smart Steps for Stepfamilies Retreat on March 16. For more information, visit