Thursday, February 9, 2012

Beat winter blues and enjoy blended family bonding time!

When the weather is cold, sometimes you’re stuck in the house with nothing to do. Wait a minute. Don’t you have some work to do on blending your stepfamily? Winter is the perfect time for blended families to get to know each other better by doing things together. So, when old man winter blows into your area, get out the board games, plan some projects and get down to some blended family bonding!

Plan a few family projects
It’s time to clean out the attic, garage or guest bedroom, and jump-start spring-cleaning with blended family bonding. Assign stepfamily members different tasks, but make sure they are still working as a team. You can even take the opportunity to get their bedrooms cleaned out.  Give one child a garbage bag for donations to charity, and a second child a garbage bag for trash.  After the room is picked up, assign the same team to dust and vacuum the room. When one project is completed stepparents and stepkids can celebrate together by having a special meal, or going out to eat a special treat.

Provide fun opportunities for stepsiblings to connect
Have available board games, the Wii, PSIII or XBox stocked with games, or even a set of checkers or puzzle left out on the table, and you are on way to blended family bonding.  As much as teenagers love technology, a checkers tournament can also be a blast. As long as the mood is kept light, stepsiblings may try to figure out one another’s strategies or maybe even team up together to figure out a winning stepparent’s or bio parent’s strategies, so one of them can win!

Leaving out a challenging winter puzzle for several weeks offers a chance for stepparents or stepsiblings to help one another solve the puzzle. Hardly anyone can walk past a puzzle without trying out a few pieces. Take advantage of those moments when stepchildren are pondering over pieces to join them, working with them to achieve success.

When the kids are busy doing things, whether fun or work, they are getting to know each other, and bonding as a family.  It sometimes happens naturally, but as a parent in a stepfamily, providing multiple opportunities to connect will make blended family bonding easier and happen faster.

Begin planning for summer trips
I know it’s the middle of winter, but it’s time to start introducing the idea of traveling together as a blended family, and this is another opportunity for important blended family bonding.  Bring home brochures from travel agencies, and guidebooks from the library.  Find out what locations your biological kids and stepkids are interested in visiting.  Start talking about types of trips:  do you have an active family that would enjoy backpacking and hiking for a week?  Or, is your blended family the type that would love an all-inclusive resort, with comfortable beds and air conditioning?  There are also economical cruises that offer nonstop activities for your blended family.

Remember, the adults make the final decisions, but it’s great to get input from your blended family members to reinforce your unique bond and make your time together an opportunity for blended family bonding.  Stepsiblings will discover that they have more in common with each other, as they voice their likes and dislikes for various types of trips.  Once you have an idea of what interests them (and what doesn’t interest them) it’s time to do research and figure out what works for your families schedule and budget. 

Remember, spending more money doesn’t mean you’ll have a more wonderful time, or even that you love your children more. Children value the time you spend with them, not the money.  You goal is to create memories for them, memories of time spent with parents who love them and stepsiblings who are now a part of their blended family. Blended family bonding is easy when parents and stepparents remember that part of becoming a family is to have a little fun on the way!

The Blended and Step Family Resource Center has many resources to help blended and step families work and succeed. The book, Blended Family Advice, written by the center’s founder and director, Shirley Cress Dudley, is a very useful tool for helping blended families find their way to becoming strong social units for growth and development.

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