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.

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