3 Suggestions About How To Give Step Family Relationships A Fighting Chance . . .

First I need to provide some more recent information about blended families and about step families because they are NOT the same thing.

According to Wikipedia: A stepfamily is a family where at least one parent has children that are not genetically related to the other spouse or partner. Either one parent may have children from a previous relationship. Children in a stepfamily may live with one biological parent, or they may live with each biological parent for a period of time.[1] In addition, visitation rights mean that children in stepfamilies often have contact with both biological parents, even if they permanently live with only one.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes a blendedfamily this way:                                                       ‘A family that includes children of a previous marriage of one spouse or both.’

Still a bit confused?–me too. But it really is the step family that I wanted to talk about anyway. We have come a ways in naming and renaming our family structures and relationships. As we progress down the lane of ‘what’s next’ we find that we have gone from ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ and The ‘Cleavers’ to ‘The Brady Bunch’ and more recently into the world of single parenthood. From there we have gone into gay parented families, lesbian parented families, LGBT parented families arriving at blended families and step families. We are drifting away from the traditional mom-dad-children living arrangements. This trend of coming up with alternative family life styles will continue until the ‘regular’ or ‘ordinary’ family set up will become representative of the minority.

When society points it’s finger at kids and asks what’s wrong with those people–why are they so messed up I believe the answer to that may very well be US–we parents. We are who is messed up. Parents are expecting the kids to adapt to the life style that is presented to them when, in truth, it’s the parents who need to provide a less selfish, more considerate, more stable and predictable, environment that the kids can identify with.  I have no comment to make about the right and the wrong of any particular life style that someone wants to indulge in. Just don’t mess up the kids along the way under the banner of they need to accept what is described as diversity in the world. This is NOT diversity as it is attended. We can be encouraged to understand it but we don’t have to live it to prove it.

It would be difficult to keep morals, values, life lessons, expectations, consequences for decisions made, both good and not so good, the same for everyone. What about when it comes time for Mom to discipline Dads kids and the other way around? How does that work? How does one kid get to do something that some of the other kids can’t? It’s natural for each parent to have some kind of bias toward his own kids and that each parent would have a set of standards that he/she would impose on ALL the kids. How well would that work? Speak about conflicting and mixed messages I would think it would be very difficult for a child to keep anything straight.

I have included 3 basics that stepfamilies might consider embracing if their goal is for things to somehow work out:

  1. Make sure that everyone in the family has some respect for the members of the other family. Create several opportunities, not just a weekend at Disney World, together doing ‘family ‘ things to observe the dynamics of the group.Things like age differences will be important, personality types, general interests and how do the kids from one group get along with the soon-to-be new mom or dad.
  2. How will decisions be made and who will deliver those outcomes–who gets to be the ‘bad’ guy? and how will that go down with the other parents kids? This needs to be decided ahead of time so that a united front can be presented. The parents need to be able to agree on why there is a problem (the issue in question may be contentious for one parent but not the other) and what the consequences will be as a result of one of the kids or several of the kids ‘messing’ up?
  3. Remember that new routines will have to be created for ALL the family members and ALL the kids must be mindful and respectful of each members rights to their routine.

One of the biggest mistakes is assuming the kids will be OK–eventually. There is absolutely nothing that guarantees this will EVER happen. Kids need to discuss and state their feelings about what they think is coming. Disagreements/concerns need to be sorted out before any moves are made. Kids are resilient-true. Can they adapt-yes they can. Will the kids in this group want to adapt is more the question. Then there is the issue of one of the kids or some of the kids wanting to spend time with the ‘other’ parent–the one which is not involved in the ‘new’ family. How does that work. Can the ‘new’ couple tolerate the ‘old’ ex hanging around? Will the kids rebel hoping to break up the new family so that they can go back to the old family?

And we wonder what is wrong with our kids today-WOW

Anyways that’s how I see it, all the best,  Jim

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Author Jim Cloughley's 
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