Blending two families successfully can be challenging. One speaker at the BYU Women's Conference likened it to "landing a burning plane."

PROVO — At age 16, Gwen Cannon was so proud of herself after she landed a burning plane. She expected her father to congratulate her on keeping a clear head after dark smoke began to billow from the instrument panel in her little Cessna 150.

She knew her landing had been clumsy, but she was surprised when her father strode up and angrily asked her who taught her to fly.

"You've got to be able to fly a plane when it's broken," he declared. "It's easy to fly a plane that's fine."

Cannon likened her father's admonition to relationships and particularly to blending families. There needs to be a Plan B for the times that are stressful, said Cannon, a speaker at the 2014 Women's Conference at BYU held May 1-2.

As a grandmother, pediatrician and mother of a blended family, Cannon said blended families have come together as a result of trauma or tragedy with the affected members in various stages of acceptance.

"Some have grieved and moved on," she said. "Some resist and continue to resist."

Some traditions need to be honored, others sacrificed, she said. "You have to bend to blend."

Finances dictate many decisions. Cannon suggested looking for ways to eliminate stress and to exercise faith and patience. Give it time, she said.

Every blended family is different, but needs to be built on some basic principles. The parents must be united, and those involved need to take the opportunity to practice charity and have faith in God.

"The home is the testing ground," she said. "We must be capable of loving our stepchildren as our own when some are easier to love than others."

"If possible, move into neutral territory," she advised. "Not his house, or your house, but our house."

Candace Heyman, a young mother, said her mother divorced and remarried four times, but she weathered it.

"My message is one of hope," she said. "Accept that it's not an easy road and focus on what you can do."

Parents are usually ready to move on sooner than children because the changes are not changes they chose, she said. "Let them have their agency."

In families, love is spelled out with time, stability and predictability, she added.

Heyman said counseling and her faith helped her let go of her unrealistic expectations and forgive those who disappointed her. She realizes today that a happy marriage is "a gift."

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at

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