Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Balancing old and new traditions in a blended family

When special occasions come around in your blended family, are you excited or filled with dread? You have a new blended family of your own now, and you wonder how you can possibly maintain old extended family traditions. When those special occasions roll around, do you drag your step family along, or do you invite extended family members to celebrate the family event at your house? Here are some basic tips to help with those decisions.

Boundaries in your blended family
Your own parents may be demanding at times, but that does not mean you and your blended family must spend every special celebration with them at their home. It is important to show love to your parents, but they have to realize that your first obligations now are with your stepfamily. There is nothing wrong with setting limits with each of your parents.

No is not a dirty word
It is OK to say no to your family. If the schedule of your blended family is too busy, traveling is too expensive, or one of your kids or step kids is ill; it is perfectly acceptable to stay home. When your parents ask if you are coming home for a family celebration, remind them that you ARE home. Creating new traditions for your step family is your first priority.

Having a baby
Families have different views on handling the birth of a baby. Some see it as a private time for mom and dad, while others expect you to allow the entire family into the delivery room with video cameras. There is no right answer, and this should be decided by you and your spouse. However, in such circumstances, the blended family mom should have the final say.

Does any of this actually matter?
Of course it does! A blended family, step kids, a step mom or step dad, and possibly a new baby; this makes navigating extended family events very hard. Even though you have a new stepfamily, your own parents will still expect to spend time with you. The love you have for your parents is wonderful, but it is important to set some boundaries with them in regard to your blended family.

How can I make my parents understand this?
Thank them for the great job they did in bringing you up. Let them know that you understand all the sacrifices they made to provide you with a happy family and a loving home. You can then tell them that it is your turn now, time for you to demonstrate the great parenting skills they taught you, to use them building your new step or blended family.

It is time to make your own traditions with your blended family. Talk with your spouse to find out what made family events special in their family, and incorporate those traditions into your own family functions. You are the bosses of your blended family. Be considerate and loving, but remember your new blended family comes first.

The Blended and Step Family Resource Center offers counseling and coaching services to help blended and step families in adjusting to a new blended family setting. Founded by Shirley Cress Dudley, a licensed professional counselor (LPC) and nationally certified counselor (NCC), the center has resources including the book, Blended Family Advice, which she authored, to help blended and step families become strong and successful.

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