Saturday, February 18, 2012

Blended family organization makes house run smoothly

It’s a brand new year, and if last year’s activities left you breathless and confused, maybe it’s a good time to start the year fresh with some blended family organization You may have a spouse, kids who live in your house, and step kids who visit, and other relatives who visit occasionally.  It can get pretty complicated in blended and stepfamilies homes when juggling a variety of schedules and needs. Blended family organization can help clean up the confusion and keep everyone’s life neat and organized.

Family calendar keeps everyone on schedule
Blended family organization means knowing when events are happening for each member of the family, keeping track of visitation schedules, as well as doctor appointments, dental cleanings, and many other necessary appointments. A family calendar can be a wonderful tool for keeping track of your busy stepfamily.

Purchase a calendar with several lines under each day.  Assign a different color marker to each child.  (This includes biological kids living in the house and step kids that visit.)  One idea is to assign colors based on school colors, especially with older step kids who are in college, or younger kids in different schools.

School schedules are usually the busiest to keep track of in blended families. Print out school schedules and mark each child’s individual school holidays, spring break, exam schedules, sporting events, and any other events you are aware of at this time.  Being able to see the different school schedules, especially upcoming spring breaks, will allow you to start making plans for your various children’s time off.

Don’t forget to keep track of special events of every member of your blended family. Go through the calendar and mark everyone’s birthday.  This includes children, parents, and any other relatives you want to honor on their birthday.  Anniversaries or other special events can also be marked at this time.

Record visitation schedules.  It’s best to plan as far in advance. Usually, separation agreements or divorce settlements will detail visitation, but these dates may be up for discussion and there is not time like now to get those dates cemented and on the family calendar.

Individual Calendars
All children like to know what to expect and giving children who don’t have access to the family calendar their own individual calendar with visitation schedules clearly marked let’s them know they are a part of the blended family plan. All ages, from younger kids to teenagers, want to know which weekend they will be spending at mom’s, and which weekends at dad’s house- so they can make plans.  Make sure these calendars are pocket sized- small enough to carry in a purse or wallet.
Weekly Calendar
Not everyone needs a weekly calendar, but if you have a particularly busy stepfamily, it could make your life much easier. Each weekend, print a calendar for the next week.  The weekly calendar helps make sure no one is left at school after a late practice, and you don’t miss any of your kid’s special events. Including the meals for each night, and how many will be eating, is great for organizing the grocery list, and managing your kid’s meal expectations.

Grocery/Toiletries List
If you find yourself making 20 trips a week to the grocery store or pharmacy, it may be time to add weekly grocery and toiletry lists to your blended family organization. Making everyone in the family responsible for recording their own items will help take the burden off of one person’s shoulders. If it’s not on the list, the offender will have to wait until next week. It may seem tough, but this will teach your children to plan ahead and be responsible for school assignments and their personal toiletries. Blended family organization teaches individual responsibility.

Do you have trouble sorting the clothes when you have biological kids and step kids of the same ages/sizes/gender in the house? Here are some tips for keeping track of laundry items: Purchase different brands of clothes for different kids. For instance, purchase only one brand of sports socks for your son. When you step son visits, and you wash his socks- his socks are the ones that are different brand; mark all shirts on the back tag with their first initial; and use separate laundry baskets for each child. When their laundry is finished, each child can pick up their basket and put their clothes away. If they forget, and wonder where their clothes are- send them to the laundry room!

Chore chart
Blended family organization means getting biological kids and step kids on board with keeping with the house neat and clean. Assign chores for all kids, those who live in the house fulltime, and those who visit. For younger children- a chore chart makes it easier for them to remember their assigned chores.  Even visiting children want to feel part of the stepfamily. Assign chores such as washing the dishes, or setting the table to the child that is visiting for the weekend, spring break, or longer summer visits. If a visit is longer than a weekend, each child should be given more chores. No blended family member should be treated as a visitor.

Blended family organization at the beginning of the year will save you hours of time later on in the year. Planning vacations, birthday celebrations and other special events are easier when the calendar is clearly marked. Every child in your stepfamily, whether living their full time or visits feels a part of the family when they see their school schedule, birthday and other special events marked on the family calendar. It’s already February, but it’s never too late to get going with blended family organization so you can enjoy your wonderful stepfamily the rest of the year!

The Blended and Step Family Resource Center aims to assist your blended family with our counseling and coaching services. We also have resources, including articles, newsletters, and licensed professional counselors, to help you manage the different issues that typical blended families have to deal with, and more. Contact us today and let us know how we can help.

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