A stepfamily or blended family is a family where one parent has children that are not related to the other parent.
If you live in a blended household, you almost certainly recognize the dedication and stamina needed for a happy home. Although many families struggle through years of challenging communication, you can use specific strategies to help yours relate and function more peacefully.
You may already have learned some techniques that suit your family's needs. To supplement these, review these 9 strategies to help your blended family be healthy, happy and strong.
1. Agree on a plan. In advance of "blending" the families, parents can talk about how they will manage the kids and their lives together. Before you marry or move in, make it a point to discuss openly how you want the management of the kids to be split or shared.
2. Decide not to discipline the other's children. Although this may sound like a drastic measure, it's wise - at least in the short-term - to avoid potentially uncomfortable occurrences between step-parents and children.
* Instead, each incident will be discussed and the biological parent will determine and administer the consequence. This will help to reduce development of negative feelings by a child toward the step-parent.
* This agreement may be altered in the future, depending on the progression of family relationships.
3. Vow together to treat the children equally. Make a concerted effort to show your step-children the same consideration, compassion, concern, and love as you show to your own children.
4. Affirm that you won't criticize the children or each other. Such interactions tend to wear away at the primary relationship and discourage open communication between partners, not to mention arousing negative feelings in the children.
5. Establish healthy relationships first. Before blending the families, recognize the importance of allowing the children the time and space to develop comfortable, healthy relationships.
* If the kids really know the other parent well and have a well-established, easy relationship with them, household life will go more smoothly once the family "blends."
6. Hold weekly family meetings. For these, everyone in the family is required to attend. Each person takes turns sharing what they enjoyed about the last week and anything that occurred that troubled them.
* Avoid turning family meetings into "gripe" sessions.
* With your partner, set the tone in the meetings. Encourage your kids to appropriately comment. Especially with younger kids, make suggestions to help guide the meetings' discussions.
7. Provide options for the children. Allow all the children opportunities to choose what they want to do.
* One method is to let kids take turns selecting what the weekly family activities will be.
* If you like, provide parameters for the choices. For example, the kids might choose from going to get ice cream, playing miniature golf or seeing a movie.
8. Show interest in all the kids. Take notice of not only your own kids' activities, but also your step-children's interests and hobbies. On the other end of the spectrum, remember not to leave your own kids out in your efforts to include the step-kids.
* If your work schedule allows, attend some of your stepchild's sports or extracurricular school activities. This will help demonstrate that you notice and care about them.
9. Have positive exchanges with all the kids. Provide warm feedback each day for each child in the family. Say the child's name, make eye contact, and use a friendly voice tone. Remember that you're building relationships based on respect.
Blending a family can be an interesting, challenging, and ultimately very rewarding journey. Apply these strategies to ensure that your household is functioning positively for a healthy and happy family.