Friday, April 27, 2012

Respectful, caring communication crucial for a blended family

Like conversations between you and your spouse, and you and your biological children, one of the most important rules for successful step family communications between step moms and step dads with their step kids, and among the step siblings, should be followed by everyone in the blended family:  keep it respectful and caring. The building and maintaining of your blended family requires attention to the needs of each member of the family, and faithful adherence to rules of respect is a good place to start.

House rules rule
When you establish blended family house rules, it is wise to hold a family meeting to discuss them. Everyone needs to understand the rules and agree to follow them, or accept that there will be consequences. One of the most important rules you can establish is that everyone behave respectfully toward each other. Once accepted, this arrangement of mutual respect is something everyone can feel comfortable with. As parents, you are both equally in charge. Bio kids and step kids abide by the same rules and expectations, whether they live full time with you or visit part-time.  When it comes to building a blended family that works, the very basic rule of everyone treating each other with respect can lessen the impact of many problems, and maybe avoid some of them altogether.

Rules are for everyone, including you
As hard as it is sometimes, as parents we must remember to be the step family adult. When your step kids or bio kids arrive from the homes of their other parent, they sometimes seem resentful of you and your house rules.  You feel like you are in a constant training mode with regard to behavior, and it is hard not to rant about the lack of discipline practiced by your ex- spouse or by your step kids’ other parent. You have to bite your tongue. Caring grownups understand that maneuvering between homes with different rules is hard on kids, and that they are not responsible for rules, or lack of them, at either home. Snapping or grousing, or angrily scolding, does little to convey your unconditional love or your sympathetic understanding. This behavior is also against the rules.

Active listening shows respectWhen you are busy and one of the kids asks a question or begins talking about something that is important to them at that moment, try to stop what you are doing for a minute to turn and listen. Active listening means that you look at the speaker; nod or smile to show you understand what they are telling you; interrupt to ask a question only for clarification, and never to hurry things along; then respond in such a way that they know you heard what they said and understood their meaning.

If you absolutely cannot interrupt your activity, say when you will be able to pay attention, and then meet that time frame. Both bio kids and step kids in your blended family will respect your word when you keep it, and you will show you mean it when you say you care about what they have to say.

If you want your step children and bio children to talk to you, you have to do your part, by listening. Building a successful blended family is hard work, and takes consistent following of the rules by everyone. Active listening shows respect.
For more information, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center for guidance on managing your blended or step family.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spouses can learn new blended family communication skills

After remarriage, building blended family communication can sometimes be challenging for new spouses. Communication between partners can make or break a relationship, as many divorces prove. As remarried spouses, and as step parents with a step family, you know that caring and productive communication is vital if the two of you are to be successful as a couple and as blended family parents.

Be an active listener
If you find yourself hearing your spouse say the same thing over and over, it may be that you are not listening. Say what? Okay, you hear what they are saying, but do you act like you are listening? Active listening entails looking at someone when they talk, nodding your head to show understanding, or maybe tilting your head when you don’t understand. Whenever possible, stop what you are doing to face them. Feeling confident that what you have to say is important to the other person is key to building a safe framework to share what you really think. And feeling confident that talking will have a beneficial outcome is important to step family communication with step kids, too.

Addressing problems with your new spouse
If the subject matter you need to discuss with your spouse is an emotional one, take a minute and think about how best to approach the issue. Tricky issues are hard to deal with if one of the parties starts out feeling defensive. The best time to talk over something problematic is when you are alone, and both people are in a receptive state of mind. Sometimes it can be helpful to make an appointment to talk, other times just sitting down and holding hands can set the tone for a meaningful conversation.

Be non-confrontational
Nobody feels like talking to someone who speaks in an accusatory manner. When telling your spouse that it makes you crazy when he calls his ex- spouse to make sure the furnace is working or the driveway got plowed, explain that you feel threatened by his focus on his former home. Putting the focus on you and not your spouse will help your statement sound less like you are criticizing or complaining, and you are less likely to cause a defensive reaction. Let him know that what is at issue is how his actions make you feel, not that you think his intention is wrong.

Give feedback
After your spouse has given you his point of view on an emotionally-charged issue, it is really helpful to restate what you heard him say. Especially when his point of view differs from yours, be sure to speak in a caring and non-confrontational way when checking to be sure you understood correctly. Sometimes the way something is said does not fully convey meaning or intent, and talking things out takes practice.

Respect intensity temperatures
When you and your new spouse disagree, and you invariably will, consider the weight each of you give to the issue at hand. If the subject is of greater importance to your spouse than it is to you, you may want to stand back and agree that his feelings on this particular matter are more important than yours. When neither partner is bent on getting his or her way, it is a lot easier and less stressful to reach accommodation and solve disagreements.

Parents in a remarriage building a blended family have this going for them: they sincerely want this relationship to work. They want it to work for them, and for their step kids. When step parents in a step family remember that nothing works unless they give their relationship the care and attention it deserves, everyone wins. Good communication is vital to their relationship working, and step kids not only enjoy a more stable blended family, they learn good relationship skills.

The Blended and Step Family Resource Center has resources including coaching by professional counselors, books, newsletters, and more – all aimed at helping blended and step families become strong and successful. Contact us today if you need help with your blended family.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Blended family success rests in strength of marriage

Being a part of a blended family is certainly not a walk in the park; it takes a lot of effort from all the family members to make it work. It takes hard work to get a blended family happy and functional.  A blended or step family is a complicated and sometimes chaotic construction: it involves moms and dads, step moms and step dads, brothers and sisters, step brothers and step sisters, in different combinations.

Blending your stepfamily
Basically, two different families become one, and it is a delicate process that will bring many emotions, attitudes and feelings to the surface. To make the transition to a blended family easier for every member of that family, here are some basic rules and guidelines to consider:
  • Your marriage and the love you share with your new spouse is the glue that holds your blended family together. The reason why you started this new family, this new life, is because you fell in love with your spouse and you wanted to get married. So, value your marriage, invest time in your relationship and above all, keep all the communication lines open. Even if you are afraid of certain sensitive topics (you feel that your spouse spends more time with his or her kids than he does with you, or you are worried that he or she might not be able to become attached to your kids) you have to discuss them. Hiding your feelings will create pressure on your relationship, and that pressure will reflect negatively on your merging family.
  • Give time to the kids (your kids and your spouse’s) to deal with the situation. Depending on their age, the transition to a blended family might be smooth or, on the contrary, bumpy.  Younger children usually accept and embrace the idea of a step mom, a step dad or step siblings. However, the transition is a little more complicated for blended families with teenager. Being a teenager is pretty confusing anyway, and having to deal with the whole blended family situation will put even more pressure on teenage kids. You need to show them empathy, love and support. Treat them as grownups: this means talking to them and explaining them that you deserve to be happy and in a loving, fulfilling relationship. Don’t give in to tantrums, menaces, blackmails or any other type of destructive behavior.
  • Spend time as a family, and make time for each member of the stepfamily. It’s important to do things together, all of you, as a family: you and your spouse, your children and his or her children. But you also need to make sure that you spend enough time alone with your spouse, that you also allocate time for doing special things with your biological children and also for getting to know your step-kids better. Every member of your blended family needs to feel valued, loved and protected.
If you wonder who to spend the most time with, always focus on your spouse first. Make sure you connect with your spouse each day, and for an extended time on the weekend. If your marriage is not strong, then you will not have a strong blended family.

Check out the many resources at The Blended and Step Family Resource Center for help with managing your blended family.  If you need more extensive help, The Blended and Step Family Resource Center offers assistance in the form of counseling and coaching services to help blended and step families in adjusting to their new family setting.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Talking it out essential for blended family success

In a blended family challenges are greater than couples in nuclear families who haven’t been through previous marriages. Honest and clear communication about all aspects of your family life, even sensitive ones, is essential. 

It takes two to communicate!
Communication is a process that involves two people. Monologues or fights don’t qualify as communicating. Make sure that you listen to what your spouse has to say, and respond to his or her issues in a clear, honest and respectful manner. If you can’t agree on a certain subject, try to compromise.

  • Keep your important talks private. It’s only between you and your spouse. Don’t start discussing sensitive, important topics in front of the kids, in front of your parents or your spouse’s parents or in front of other relatives and friends.
  • Talk to your spouse before making promises to the children, allowing or denying them something. If you are not sure how your spouse feels about certain problems regarding the kids, simply tell to the kids that you’ll give them an answer later and check with your spouse whether you are on the same page or not. Also, make sure that your spouse uses the same approach. Don’t argue in front of kids: it’s important appear united and consistent in front of them. Sending mixed signals to the kids will undermine your and your spouse’s authority.
Write down big issues
Blended families will probably have a lot of sensitive, emotional topics that need to be discussed. A good exercise in blended family communication, when it comes to such topics, is to write them down. That will reduce the tension and will help the two of you to have a calm, productive discussion.

When you have many difficult problems to discuss, it’s important to always remember what brought the two of you together. Start each conversation by telling your spouse some of the things that you appreciate about him or her. For example, if the topic of the discussion is the amount of time the two of you are spending together, start by saying that you appreciate that he or she makes time to spend with his or her biological kids and with the step kids. Also, say that you love the fact that your spouse has interesting hobbies, but you feel like you are not getting enough time together, just the two of you, and you need to find a solution to that problem.

Stay positive!
Start each discussion with a positive attitude and try to focus on solutions, not on problems. Don’t criticize your spouse and don’t make negative remarks – instead of that, try to make him or her understand your perspective. Don’t use a lot of you statements when talking to your spouse. Instead of focusing the conversation on yourself, turn it around and focus on your spouse. Say you think there is a problem with how much time your spouse gives you. Instead of saying how he is lacking, tell your spouse that you want to spend more time with him, and then come up with a plan to do that!

Communicating regularly and in a non-defensive way will help your blended family become stronger, happier and more successful. If you want to learn more about the topic of blended family communication, The Blended and Step Family Resource Center offers its resources and services to help blended and step families achieve their goal of a rewarding family relationship.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Learn how to work together as a step family

Every new step family has a lot to work through and that’s no secret. The important part is that every one works together. Learning how to work together as a step family can be a huge challenge. The hard part for the kids is that they did not choose to be in this new blended family role, so they truly have no choice but to try and make it work. On the other hand, you as a step mom, step dad or as a biological parent have chosen this path for your child or children. It’s up to you and your new spouse to make this work and make sure everyone works together as a family.

Realize the work of blending a family together
Before you start telling your kids how easy this process is going to be; make sure you are honest about the entire process. In reality, you know how difficult this really could become. There are some instances where families just naturally blend together; however, there are other families that do not. Your job is not to worry about those other families, but instead focus on the task at hand with your family. Becoming a blended family means that you could possibly have step children or that your kids will have a step parent.

Make a plan to make this blended family process easier
Putting together a blended family is always different for each person. Everything should be as smooth as possible as you all work on this adventure together.  Never speak negatively about your ex in front of the children. Although you can’t control what happens at your ex- spouse’s house, you can control what you say about your ex to the children. 

Create a set of guidelines for your new family. These are guidelines that you and your spouse create together. You can disagree, as you develop these guidelines, but make sure the kids don’t see you disagree. Once your guidelines are created, with fair and equal treatment for all, then present them to your kids, as a united front- the two of you helping your children understand this new world of step family.

Put your marriage firstNo matter what kind of marriage you have it is important to put it first. Moms and dads need to feel as though they have a solid marriage before they can tackle large issues. When you stand as a united front, your household runs a lot smoother. During this process, you need to focus on your marriage, so that you may be the best parents possible. Learn how to work as a couple and then you can learn how to work as a blended family.   Spend dedicated time with your spouse each day, and some extended time together, at least once a week. The stronger you keep your marriage, the stronger your blended or step family will be.

If you need professional help with your blended family, The Blended and Step Family Resource Center is founded with the aim to help blended and stepfamilies become strong and successful. Avail of resources that can help you manage your blended family better including licensed professional counselors who offer coaching and counseling services.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Making your blended family feel whole

Bringing a blended family together can feel like a lot of work. For a while, your step family might not feel like a one unit, but two units combined. It takes time to make a family feel like a complete family, but it is possible. One of the most important aspects of creating a whole blended family is to make sure everyone feels welcome and involved. Sometimes a person feels left out and that can unbalance the whole family. Take the time to talk to everyone in the family to make sure no one feels left out.

Spend more time together as a step family
Just because you are a step family does not mean you shouldn’t spend more time together. Spending time together is more important than you could ever imagine. Think of those kids who come home from school and there is no one in the house. The child feels alone and they feel as though they have no one. Your child may feel like this as they are having a new family built for them. Spending time together and making sure everyone feels solid is very important. This is a significant role as a biological parent or a step parent.  It’s important to spend some one-on-one time with your step kids and your biological kids.

Get to know your step kids or step siblings
If you are a child in a step family, then you have a lot going on around you. Making your blended family whole is also up to you. You will want to get to know your new step siblings because they are a part of your new blended family. No one expects you to stop your whole life, but they are an important part of your new life, so take the time to get to know them. The same goes for a step parent, your step kids are an important part of your new blended family. Although your mind might be on your biological kids or your job, it’s important that you take the time to get to know your step kids. Everyone has to work together to make this new experience work.

Treat each step family member with respect
Growing up with your biological sisters and brothers sometimes seems easy. When you throw a step family member in the mix, you might have a wide range of feelings. The most important thing you can do here is make sure you value each family member, whether they are a step family member or not. Creating a blended family unit is not easy, but you all have the power to make it happen. It might take a lot of nights of talking, playing and just spending time together, but before you know it, your blended family will feel like a whole family soon enough.

The Blended and Step Family Resource Center offers a wealth of information through its many resources including books and newsletters, as well as coaching and counseling services by licensed professional counselors.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Parenting in a step family

No one said that parenting in a blended or step family is easy; but it is not impossible. The key to parenting is to work together as partners and be consistent with the children. Also, even though you may have biological children, that does not mean you have to treat your step kids any different. The same goes with the other spouse.

Make a plan

Bringing your children into a blended family is like bringing in a new baby into the house. You need to have a game plan with your spouse. How will you discipline the kids? What are boundaries need to be set? Create a plan to at least try to get things moving smoothly.

Discipline the children

Equality is important. Now that you have entered a blended family, you have to learn to treat everyone equally, regardless if they are your biological children or step children. Not having any favorites will be very helpful when disciplining the children since the kids will eventually realize that you mean business and you are consistent with what you want.

It is essential to note here that there are some situations in which the biological parent needs to take the lead when disciplining his/her child. Of course, although the biological parent has taken charge of his or her kid, the step parent should also be there to support the decision of the other.

Uniting a blended family is not always easy, but with the right tactics and a good support system from both spouses, it is definitely possible! For more information on blended or step families, visit The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.