A couple of facts to consider: there are now more blended families in existence then there are ‘traditional’ families that have one set of parents.
Often times in blended families there are problems with each member trying to decide where they fit in. Behavior that was OK before may not be acceptable in the new family setting. Territory and roles get redistributed or re-defined. What was ‘mine’ before may not be now. Family value systems and belief systems differ. There are a myriad of problems and issues that need to be navigated if this is to work. One would hope that many of these issues would have been addressed before any effort to blend the family takes place. But there are issues that come up after the effort to blend families takes place. Some of these can’t be addressed because the personalities of the family members aren’t always predictable. What about pets-do they come along for the ride or are they not welcome because the other parent has pets already in the ‘new home’ and they might not get along very well. Who gets rid of what? Doesn’t sound like much but blended families have been defeated for much less.
The following are four of the more obvious and destructive hurdles to get over. It often matters whether or not Mom is moving into Dads house or Dad is moving into Moms house. Adults can be just as territorial as kids can be. The parent moving ‘in’ is often the one expected to be more conciliatory when it comes to accepting new arrangements, disciplinary decisions or values affecting the functioning of the kids as a whole. Not fair perhaps but often true.
- The natural response from a step-parent who is moving into to a new living situation, thereby creating a blended family, often favors the other partners kids trying to ‘make friends’ with the kids that are living there. In doing so they sometimes, unwittingly, alienate their own kids in the process. By doing so the authority, standards, values and the ‘rules’ that existed are compromised creating some confusion in the house. That means that the two parents have got some serious issues to sort out and quickly. They need to find a way to mend the breach equitably.
- Another major problem arises when one parent feels or believes that the standards of behavior in the house are not fairly balanced between the children of each family. “You are harder on my kids than your own kids” or ” it’s seems OK for your kids to do . .? but not for mine.”
- The other part of the same issue occurs when one parent feels he or she is working harder to make things work than the other. Consequently the harder working parent is seen as being too tough by the kids themselves. The kids end up favoring one parent over the other usually the less demanding one.
- It is easy to get caught up in the every day workings of a new blended family. The parents work overtime trying to make all things perfect. In the mean time one of the parents loses sight of the amazing bond that can exist between a biological parent and his or her children. That one parent may side with one of his or her kids to protect them against one of the other kids or one of the partners. In either case it becomes divisive.
- The fourth problem can be the constant interference by the biological parent who is now out of the family picture. Whether it is due to anger, grief, or sadness the parent who is left out will create havoc and disruption and could use his or her kids to cause constant friction between the blended family members. Kids against kids. Kids against the other biological parent. Kids against the ‘new parent’.
So how to deal with these problems. Communicate often and clearly with each other.
- Now is the time for everyone to have a chance to speak about what the experience is like for them so far. They need to trust that they are free to speak openly but respectfully about what is going on for them.
- Have family meetings each week to talk about things that came up or discuss ideas about how to make things better
- The step parents need to model appropriate behavior and skill when trying to sort out problems or issues that are concerning.
- The step parents need to speak about the family and the members as being equal to and each as important as the other. The step parents have to be careful at all times and in all actions as not favoring one child over another regardless of whose child is being disciplined.
- The step parents need to decide on parenting techniques that both will use so that a consistent common front is demonstrated. NEVER challenge one another in from of the kids. If there is a disagreement in style or substance sort it out behind closed doors and in private.
- Months before the move to join families happens get the kids together to spend time with each other-to get to know a bit about each other–their music likes, their sports likes or what their hobbies are before they actually share the same space.
- Step parents need to agree ahead of time to establish boundaries for acceptable behavior and they are presented to the kids as one voice–a common front.
There are many more things that can be done but don’t try to do too much too soon and don’t rush the process. Let it grow at it’s own pace.
Anyways, that’s how I see things. Thanks for dropping by — Comments can be sent to: email@example.com.
All the best, Jim
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