Friday, February 24, 2012

5 golden rules for grandparents in blended families

Being part of a blended family is difficult. Sometimes teaching your parents how to accept the new blended or step family is even more difficult. These 5 golden rules for grandparents can help you ease them into their new roles, rather than assuming they will know how to respond in the newly blended family. You and your new spouse have had some time to get to know one another before deciding to blend your families; your parents will also need that time after the wedding to learn how to respond to the new stepfamily situation. These tips, or 5 golden rules, are a good starting place to open up the conversation and give them guidelines on how to behave in a blended family, particularly with their new set of step grandkids.

Rule One: Treat all children, biological or stepchildren equally and fairly
Treat your step grandkids as if they were all your biological grandchildren.  They are waiting and watching to see if you will be fair to all.  If your biological grandchildren call you grandmother- then invite your new step grandchildren to call you grandmother. If you hug your grandchildren when you see them, then hug your step grandchildren, too.

Even better, dispense with the biological and step labels as soon as you can! Keeping these labels in your head may cause you to treat your grandchildren unequally.

Rule Two: Express interest in each new step child
Make time to learn about your new step grandchildren: their activities, friends and hobbies.  Figure out what makes each child unique.  These endeavors will help you feel more comfortable around them, and help you get to know them. Also, your step grandkids may want to get to know you a little better, and this opens the door to a closer relationship. 

Rule Three: Remember special days
Acknowledge birthdays, school events, and any other special activities of your new step grandkids.  At the beginning of each year, mark all special events on the calendar.  You may even want to purchase birthday cards, or gift cards all at once.  That way, you are fair to all the grandkids and don’t forget anyone.

Don’t forget your new daughter or son in law, too.  Remembering them with a card on their birthday will help show your support for the marriage. Share information about your family history or family recipes, to help your daughter or son (by marriage) feel a part of your family.

Rule Four: Don’t reminisce about the past
Your adult child has divorced and moved on to a new marriage. Recalling the good times in their old marriage is not going to help with blending the new marriage. Take the old wedding photos off the wall and put them away in a special album. It’s okay to keep these pictures, but do not display the old marriage partners on the wall for everyone to see when they visit you.
Rule Five: Listen
When your adult child calls and wants to talk about their frustrating moments in their blended family, don’t judge or say anything negative that you’ll regret later.  It’s very difficult to blend a family and requires a lot of patience. Support your son or daughter as they try their best to be a good parent and spouse in this new blended family.

Remember: As grandparents in a blended family, it’s your job to love all of your grandkids and support your adult child and his or her spouse in the newly blended family. It may be a little new and unfamiliar at first, but well worth your efforts. You will have the reward of a bigger family to love you back.

The Blended and Step Family Resource Center aims to help step families conquer the challenges of life in a blended family setting. A successful blended family life does not happen overnight nor is it easy. By adhering to proven principles that work, it becomes attainable when applied with consistency and discipline.

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