Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Blended family life not so easy for kids of divorce

Consider how it must feel to suddenly be informed of remarriage plans, and to be told they will become part of a whole new family, a blended family! If their new blended family includes step siblings, consider how life- changing that situation feels!

Remarriage plans?
If you and your partner are contemplating remarriage and the formation of a blended family, make this change a gradual undertaking the children and feel safe with. A divorced parent newly in love generally feels very blessed to have found love again, and can get upset with a child who acts out or tries to sabotage the new relationship. If this describes your situation:

  • Remember that although you have fallen in love with this new and wonderful person, your child has not.
  • Be patient, be considerate, and remain committed to making it work out for everyone concerned.
  • Take your time, make plans, and talk with your new partner about parenting, and how you see the roles of step parents and step kids in your future blended family.
  • Decide how much authority each of you will have over step kids, how you will handle visitation, ex-spouses, and ex in-laws.
  • Discuss how you will handle blended family finances, who will stay home from work with a sick child, where you will spend the holidays.

Blended family already in the works?

As anxious as you are to be good and beloved step parents, try not to force acceptance or affection of your new partner. Children can, and often do, form extremely close relationships with step parents, but they do it in their own time. Building a blended family is a slow process. To help kids manage, make sure that:

  • you make plenty of opportunities to be with your child without your partner being there all the time
  • you do not force your child to accept your partner as a replacement parent
  • you encourage and facilitate regular contact between your child and his other parent
  • you and your partner always speak well of your ex-spouses, at least in from of the kids
  • you allow step siblings time to bond, without rushing them
  • you and your partner establish clear and consistent boundaries of behavior   
As step parents, the best thing you can do for your kids is to maintain a strong relationship with each other. Your stability will provide security and a base from which they can feel safe enough to invest in their own step family relationships.For more questions regarding blended family relationships, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blended family life hardly ever lives up to expectations

Letting go of past experiences and expectations is a must for a blended family life to thrive. It might be that your partner is not as patient with the kids as your ex was, and perhaps not as contented as your ex had always been with your particular style of intimacy. Maybe your previous home had a nicer yard, more storage space, or nicer neighbors. Sometimes you might find yourself annoyed at how your step kids behave. 

Let go

As a step parent, you have to give before you can ever expect to receive; as a spouse, you give love to get love, and share joy to feel joy. You can only do these things when you are open and receptive to the present. Focus on the gift of your remarriage; on your small successes in bonding with step kids; on the progress step siblings are making to form your blended family with you. Let the past go.

Now is now
Think about it. Why would you want, or expect, your blended family to be a mirror of your previous family relationship? Your new step family is a blend of familiar and unfamiliar, new choices and old habits, and a colorful collage of step moms and step dads, step kids and step siblings, step grandparents, all struggling with their own wants and expectations based on their own past experiences in their outdated family unit. Make it a blended family goal to separate the past from the present.

Take a fresh look
Try to help all your kids find harmony as step siblings, and encourage new thinking, creative problem solving, cooperative negotiations, and unconditional acceptance. As step moms and step dad, help them to learn that tolerance is an important life skill. Step parents can practice looking at each other as totally new and different spouses, too!

Carpe diem
Appreciate the people in your blended family as if today might be your last chance to learn or love anything new about them. Every day, thank your spouse for joining you in this blended family you are building together.  When you practice letting go of past experiences and expectations, your blended family can create its own present. For more information on how to live up blended family expectations, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Blended family quality time

It’s difficult to find time for everyone in a blended family:  time for your kids, time for your spouse’s kids, time for your entire family, time for you, and time for you and your spouse.  It’s hard to know who to give priority. 

Research from The Blended and Step Family Resource Center shows that there is an easy answer to this, in order to have a successful blended family.  Your marriage should take priority in the family.  You and your spouse ought to schedule time to be together. 

Blended family quality time.
Date like when you were courting
Naturally, illness or an emergency are valid reasons to cancel every once in a while, but it is imperative that you preserve and enjoy quality time together. Time spent together minus kids and with no distractions, helps you maintain the necessary resilience and enthusiasm for managing your step family. And just as importantly, taking time to talk intimately and enjoy being together is vital to a meaningful and mutually satisfying relationship.

Hint: If you find yourself cancelling dates with your spouse too often, try paying the sitter a monthly salary for date nights. This will keep the sitter booked and available, plus give you added incentive for keeping your date!

Your relationship as step mom and step dad
Probably fewer of us expected to become a step parent. If we had, maybe we would be more prepared! When we remember that our children were even less prepared to become members of a blended family, it does help us hold on to sufficient empathy for their feelings. Step parents must show a united front, displaying unwavering commitment to the step family as a unit. When you disagree, do it in private. This not only gives each of you ample opportunity to be heard and understood by the other, but also keeps step siblings from taking sides and spreading your disagreement over the entire step family.

Kids need quality time with their parents
Blended family time, blended family goals, blended family fun, and blended family memories: These are all important and wonderful. Sometimes, though, step kids and step siblings need a break from being step anything, and need time with their biological family, along with undivided attention and unshared concern.

Quality time may mean different things to different members of your blended family, but when you consider that step parents and step kids all want and need love, attention, and acceptance, what defines quality maybe becomes a little clearer.  For more information on how to spend quality time in a blended family, visit The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Financial goals without a blended family plan is just a wish

Financial discussions should come into play early on as you are planning your blended family. If you and your spouse have put off this discussion, now is a good time to have it. Unless you have a financial plan you can both agree on, your step kids and your entire step family could become a casualty of poor money management. For more detailed suggestions on talking about blended family money matters, see Chapter Four, “Financial Discussions,” in Blended Family Advice, but here are a few talking points.

financial planning should be considered in a blended family
Joint or separate accounts
Some considerations for maintaining separate accounts include separate incomes from working outside the home, and single-party expenditures or receipts such as child support, insurances and health care costs, tuitions, etc. The specifics of how you handle the blended family finances are not as important as being open and above board, and fair to everyone. One party does not want to feel as if his or her money is being squandered on step kids or an ex-spouse. As with every aspect of blended family living, communication is crucial.

Creating a budget
Making an effective financial plan for your step family begins with a written and complete budget that includes virtually all financial receipts, payments, and debts. Again, see Blended Family Advice on financial discussions for help in designing your budget, or go online to see many excellent examples of family budgets.

Make a formal financial planning agreement
Many financial planning has begun utilizing the “Blended Family Financial Planner,” part of the blended family bonus material in Blended Family Advice. It begins with a Blended Couple Financial Pledge, which sets out the basis for a successful blended family financial plan.
·         Together, we will figure out a way to meet all of our financial needs
·         Together we will provide for our blended family
·         We will honestly discuss our goals and dreams
·         If something isn’t working, we will come together and re-discuss our plan

When the two of you work together to make a serious financial plan for the benefit of your blended family, you help take your goal of a successful and solvent blended family from wish to reality.  For more information on how to successfully plan the financial aspects of a blended family, visit The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summer mealtimes are nourishment to blended family life

Blended family time together takes on a new look during school vacation. When your step family seems to be all over town during the summer months, make time for quality time together. Even with teenagers in your step family, insist on set times at home with the entire blended family.

family meals nourish your blended family
Family meals nourish your blended family
Eating every meal together is a lofty goal in this day and age of lessons, meetings, practices, socializing, not to mention your jobs and summer work for older step kids. Summer family mealtimes are great opportunities to spend quality time together in a blended family.

Blended family communication
Keep blended family time, like mealtimes, a safe place for anyone to talk about whatever they wish to share. Make it easy for the step kids to feel comfortable sharing something – anything - about themselves with the entire step family.

Having fun at blended family mealtimes
Try making the extra work setting and clearing the table outside into a team effort. Play music stepsiblings can sing along with together while they work cooperatively. Extend your blended family time by playing a family game at the table. The important thing is to play together as a blended family, to laugh and to enjoy each other.

Laugh it up
Ha. Ha-ha. Ha-ha-ha. Ha-ha-ha-ha. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! What is that? It is the sound of five people sitting around a table playing the Ha-ha Game.  You begin the string of Ha’s with the first person saying it once. The next person around the table increases the number of Ha’s by one, and so on with each person, going around the table increasing the number of Ha’s by one. Anyone can reverse direction with a hand signal like a finger snap or tap on the table, and with the change of direction around the table, the number of Ha’s decreases by one, until someone reverses direction again. Even the glummest of adolescents have been known to laugh out loud in this game!

Blended family mealtimes are an excellent way to grow together as a family, and bond, learn social skills, and laugh with each other, as well. Congenial and caring mealtime conversations can take on the nurturing aspects that nutritious foods provide, making blended family goals easier to reach. For more information on how to nourish your blended family, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Managing blended family is a labor of love

Becoming a step parent is an important promise, and the choices you make and the environment you create will have an effect on all of your family members.

Take a time-off together
Hard work
As step parents, strive to make your blended family that unit of love and belonging. It is a hard job. Sometimes, after a long day, you get home and what you would really like to do is unwind. Your blended family, however, needs you to stay in gear and engaged for a while longer. As you and your spouse prepare dinner, manage the kids and the dog, check the mail, sign school permission slips, and check to see what there is for homework. You are giving your undivided attention to that challenging hands-on activity known as managing a step family.

Building a blended family
Step parenting and managing something as diverse and as prone to contention as a step family often takes more effort. A solid relationship is crucial if you are to be successful as a couple, not to mention as effective parents and step parents. If the prime relationship in your blended family is not working well, all step family relationships suffer. A blended family usually comes together after the loss of a nuclear family. For every remarriage that does not succeed, a blended family is lost, too. Sustain your material relationship. You deserve to make a success of it, and your step family deserves to succeed.

Learning to live in a step family
For step siblings as well as for step parents, adjusting to a new way of doing just about everything is hard, when everything had always seemed so normal. While blended family ground rules are usually best formed by consensus, you should establish some non-negotiable rules to be set in stone such as treating others with respect and consideration.

Building your blended family is hard and definitely a labor of love and dedication. Not every day will feel like a success, but every once in a while, a couple of the step siblings will unite against something you have said or done as parents.  And you will realize, hey! They agree and are working together! Small victories come from unexpected places.  And they give those of us managing blended families reassurance. For more information on how to manage a blended family, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Step grandparents hold an important place in your blended family

Even the best in-law and grandparent relationships can sometimes suffer during a divorce, but your children and your ex in-laws still need to maintain their close relationship. The question is, how?

It is always about the kids
First and foremost, value the loving and nurturing connections your ex in-laws have formed with their grandchildren. Assure your in-laws and your children that you treasure their relationship and expect the special bond they enjoyed before your divorce and remarriage to continue. Make a sincere effort to foster that bond. It is important, however, to make it clear to your ex in-laws that their grandchildren are now a part of a blended family in which step siblings are treated with equal respect and consideration.

Step grandparents may come with baggage
Step relationships are generally more complicated to maneuver through than primary relationships, and step grandparents are no exception. Remember that your ex in-laws have experienced your divorce and remarriage, too, and may bear resentment against one or more of the parties. Fair or not, step family relationships sometimes begin with difficulty. 
Not that it will be effortless
Try to be helpful and cooperative with step grandparents as they create bonds with the step kids in your blended family. Be patient and supportive. You can share your own struggles to be accepted by your step kids, and encourage the new step grandparent to keep trying. Give everyone plenty of time.
Important tips for step grandparents
  • Do not push. Let your step grandchildren choose your grandparent name, and never insist they call you a traditional name. First names work with some families, and using a grandparent term with a first name, such as Papa Jim, is also a good solution. Do not force displays of affection. It is fine to ask, "Do you want to give me a hug?" but children, especially step grandchildren, should be able to accept or decline physical signs of affection.
  • Do include your step grand kids in all grandchildren gift-giving occasions, but keep gifts reasonable and try not to hand over a gift every time you see your grandchildren, unless you see them very rarely. Stay out of family conflicts. Treat step grandchildren fairly. You may not immediately love them as much as your biological grandchildren, but do show sincere affection.  Before you know it, step grandchildren and bio grandchildren will all feel loved equally and share their love with you!
Being a step grandparent or step grandchild in a blended family can be difficult, but it can also be rewarding. How wonderful must it be for a step grandchild to feel sincere love from someone who really does not “have to” love them? Probably the same delight your step child feels with the unconditional love of a step parent!  A blended family is one that is especially chosen on purpose, in which everyone is loved and accepted because of who they are, not because of who they were born to. Enjoy your step family relationships. They are very special. For more information on how how grandparents play a significant role in a blended family, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.