Friday, October 28, 2011

Rules and consequences in a blended family: Create a model of consistency

Your children have gone through a lot, with a divorce, remarriage, and now having to negotiate the intricacies of a new blended family. The question most parents have is whether they should lighten up on the rules and give them a break from discipline.

The answer is no and here is why:
·         The values you hold true won’t change with your new step family, and the children must still be taught what is right and wrong.
·         The love you have for your kids and step kids is demonstrated through your consistent rules and guidelines
·         A lot is changing for your children during this time and maintaining consistency will give your kids a sense of security within their new blended family.

How to handle step kids
Standards and rules for your stepfamily should be discussed and agreed on by both parents. Respect should be paid to the history of parenting by the biological mom or dad, but the step mom or step dad must be given a say on the rules as well. There must be a mutual agreement on discipline, to ensure that parents are pulling in opposite directions. Now is the time to sit down and have a deep discussion on these blended family matters.

All kids should be treated the same
All children should be treated equally and fairly. You should have rules already in place, including the following:
·         Where the kids and step kids can and cannot eat
·         The allowable hours and time limits to television viewing
·         Which children are responsible for cleaning up after meals

The rules you set must be applied to all children in your new step family. Obviously, the associated consequences for not following rules will be different, defending on the age of the child. However, these consequences need to be equal and fair for all children in your blended family.

The parents should also follow some of the same rules. The kids are not going to understand why they can’t watch TV during dinner if dad is doing it every evening.

The biological parent at the forefront
The biological parent should be the one enforcing the rules in your blended family, not the step mom or step dad. Let your spouse take that time to get to know the children, without having them be the one that enforces the guidelines.

If a rule is in place, enforce it, every day, without fail. Rules can’t change just because you are tired or your spouse is working late.

Avoid secret alliances
You absolutely cannot change the rules in your stepfamily when your spouse isn’t around, especially as it relates to your biological children. This will give them the impression that they don’t have to respect the authority of the other parent. Maintain a strong relationship and sense of teamwork with your spouse and your kids will respect and acknowledge that. Consistency and stability in your blended family leads to a successful and united family.

If you need help with your blended or stepfamily, The Blended and Step Family Resource Center is ready to assist you with its counseling and coaching services, as well as other resources aimed at promoting strong and successful blended and stepfamilies. Contact us today and let us help to provide you with answers.

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