Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Can This Blended Family Survive?

With one of every two new American marriages ending up in divorce, and 75% of divorcees getting re-married, there just might be a new face for the “normal” family: the blended family.

But while it is quickly becoming the norm, stepfamilies and extended families must often go through a period of adjustment and conflict before they can function as a unit. Meet two families trying to assimilate and make it work: the Bruce-Pullens and the Lemons.


Tyree Bruce and her four boys are caught in the crossfire between her current husband Cary and her ex-husband Ron Pullen, who fathered the children. For two years, the venomous relationship between the father figures has affected the way the children view their stepfather Cary. Cary claims Ron is trying to turn the children against him, while Ron says that Cary’s anger problem is endangering the kids.

Larry and Dr. Jenn Berman sat down with the Bruce-Pullens and Ron’s family to help them talk out their issues. Dr. Berman suggested that this is an instance of “triangulation,” in which the tension between two people becomes so great that they draw in a third party, in this case their children. Larry encouraged the two fathers and Tyree to step up, set their differences aside and put the best interests of the children first.

In the case of the Lemons, promises really do last forever. Debra Lemon and her sister Brenda made a promise as young children that if anything unexpected ever happened to either of them, the other would care for her kids. When Brenda tragically died of a rare neurological disease later in life, Debra and her husband Lamont became the guardians of her 13 children and a grandchild, bringing their brood to an unbelievable 24.

Now the entire family is living under one roof in a cramped 4-bedroom house in the Chicago suburbs, but the Lemons are making lemonade out of life’s lemons, so to speak. Debra and Lamont have taken all of their obstacles in stride and relish their new parenting opportunity, harmoniously splitting up the chores and child care.

The local community has helped out with generous donations, but there is still a need for a more ample living space. Habitat for Humanity has committed to building the Lemons a new house with Project Lemon-Aid – the goal is to raise at least $190,000 to build a 7-bedroom, 4-bath home for the Lemons.

Watch this clip of the Lemon kids surprising Debra in the studio, plus a special surprise for the whole family!

If you would like to make a donation to help build the Lemons a home, please send a check or money order made out to Project Lemon-Aid to the following address:

Project Lemon-Aid
PO Box 1332
Chicago Heights, IL 60412

Quick Clicks

Check out today’s Advice Archive feature:

Visit the Lemon Family’s website @:

For more information on Habitat for Humanity, visit:

Special thanks to the following vendors who generously provided the Lemon family with their products:

Walgreens (www.walgreens.com)
Dominicks (www.dominicks.com)
Sprint (www.sprint.com)
Hewlett-Packard (www.hp.com)
Olympus (www.olympusamerica.com)
JVC (www.jvc.com)
Mattel (www.mattel.com)
Whirlpool (www.whirlpool.com)