Blending of families is becoming more familiar today. When a new family unit comes together, when parents remarry and their spouse’s children come into the mix, there are many readjustments to be made. All the parents I have spoken to admit that this isn’t an easy or simple task. Thank goodness there are certain solutions available that will bring greater harmony to both family’s collective success.
Jane, a client of mine, told me recently that she noticed her eight year old son, John, was showing signs of being depressed soon after she remarried. She wanted to know what was bothering him so she decided to make a picnic lunch and invite John to out to the park. They sat down and Jane asked what the problem was. Jane was afraid that perhaps John didn’t like his new five year old stepbrother, or worse yet, her new husband. After a lot of talking and listening, it became clear that John liked both is stepbrother and his new father, but hated the new dog that they had brought into the household! It seems that the dog, Blackie, kept chasing, tormenting, and growling at John’s dog, Toby. Jane sighed with relief when she heard what John had to tell her. She told John that she was glad he told her about this situation and that it would be rectified very quickly. Small issues can have a great impact on a stepfamily and each episode brings with it an emotional turmoil that needs attention, love and understanding.
There are many proven ways to effectively bring harmony into a blended family, but I found the following one to be the very best: Always have plenty of time to welcome open discussions with all family members. Create a system to have interfamily communications, a time to meet to air concerns and gripes to the often new and complex needs and feelings of all family members. Have meetings where everyone can safely air their complaints without anger or highly charged emotional feelings. This is the time when the family can reach a compromise to those family members having opposite points of view. It’s also the time for parents to offer the family a sense of self-confidence that any problem discussed really can have a beneficial and satisfying solution for the entire family to enjoy. Create the time for special requests of family members, i. e. , Ted wants to be relieved of all household chores for a week because he is studying for final exams; Nancy wants to have a sleep-over and doesn’t want her siblings coming into her room while her friends are there; Mom wants each family member to clean the bathtub after each use; and Dad wants to watch a Sunday football game without groans or complaints from everyone in the family. In these weekly meetings (or more often, if necessary) there should always be a rule that no one is permitted to belittle or disrespect anyone on any points discussed. The complaints offered might uncover unfairness that has been felt by one family member. These should be openly discussed. Also a sense of priorities will surface, with wrongs being righted and decision-making being spread around to each family member. A true democracy at work! When all family members listen to each child’s voice, there’s a good chance for all the children to learn responsibilities, and have a definite accomplishment “for the common good” that is easily understood. When everyone feels free to talk about their own concerns or viewpoints, and everyone knows that each person will be working toward a resolution, victories are felt. It’s also a time where a family member can start to feel empathy for each other. I’ve heard of a stepfather who came to a family meeting and admitted that he felt he was being treated unfairly and he knew that if the family talked this out, he would walk away feeling better about himself and his family. And they did just that. Communication, venting your feelings and understandings, is by far the best way to blend families that can weather any storms. It’s also the time when parents can set out their rules and priorities for their children to follow. Matters not completely resolved in one meeting can be tabled to the next meeting when more thought has been put into an acceptable solution.
The blending of stepfamilies is an ongoing process that could take years to work out all the bugs. By having an open line of communication between all family members, by acknowledging there is no need to rush into being what you think a perfect family would be like, and by allowing everyone ample time to adjust to new family members, you can comfortably work toward a harmonious new family unit.
Copyright © 2006 by Linda Milo and Empowering Parents Now. All rights reserved.
Linda Milo, The Parent-Child Connection Coach, specializes in helping mothers and fathers turn their parenting challenges into a more livable, more workable, and more enjoyable family life. Her FREE better-parenting newsletter covers specific, proven, and immediately usable methods for overcoming the most common parenting challenges. Visit www.empoweringparentsnow.com to subscribe to her FREE newsletter, and you’ll also receive her FREE Special Report, “10 Top Tips On Communicating With Your Child” as a thank you bonus.