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.

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