A blended family is a family consisting of a couple and child/children from previous relationships. Most times we just call them step-families. Now, it is no secret that step families are a hot bed of friction. This however does not mean that the other kinds of families do not experience friction – they do. The structure of the step-family and the complex family relations that exists in step-families however makes them susceptible to friction and conflict. This makes it impossible to move forward especially if they are not resolved. Most couples and children in step families are stuck in a cycle of friction and conflict and are on the verge of giving up.
Last week we touched on three ways to minimize friction in your step family. Today we look at three more ways to minimize friction in your step family. These principles also apply to non-blended families. So whether you are in a blended family or not, read on.
4. Look Beyond the Behavior
Children in step-families will act out and display behaviors that will cause friction both at home and in school. As the adults we are so fast to label them as bad kids….. This is not the case. Look beyond the behavior. Truth is the formation of a step family affects children too, because it brings significant changes in their family structure, family history and even their living arrangement.
These changes affect the children, some may be aware while some may not even be aware that the formation of the stepfamily affects them. Children will act out as a way to deal with all the emotions they are going through. Look at things from the child’s perspective about the changes that have taken place in their lives, about what it might be like to be in their position. You will realize that what they need is support, let them know it is okay to feel the way they do, create open pathways of communication that encourages them to speak about their concerns, acknowledge and support positive behaviors too – what you focus on grows! Don’t always pick on the negative behaviors’ only!
5. Family Meetings
Adopt the culture of family meetings, where members can discuss the well being of the family and ideas that can be incorporated. Use family meetings to create the house rules and expectations from members of the family. To do this, sit down as a couple and come up with the basic rules you want for your family. Set up a family meeting with the children, where the bio parent will communicate the couple’s proposed house rules in the presence of the step parent. This way the rules are not perceived as the step parent’s rules. This is also an opportunity of displaying your unified front as a couple.
Allow the children to give in their opinion and addition to the rules. The children will feel acknowledged as an important part of the family and it will be easy for the step parent to parent since he/she will be guided by the house rules that the children are aware of.
Regular family meetings are also an opportunity to resolve conflicts amicably, plan for family activities, holidays and a chance to just bond while creating a way forward for the family unit.
The common trait in all the negative stories by Disney about the wicked/evil step mother was unfairness. Please do not be caught up in this web of unfairness. The rules of the house set must be applied fairly; do not allow your bio children to get away with what your step children will not. Do not be a two faced step parent, who is distant, quarrelsome and unreasonable when your spouse is not around, then all nice, understanding with lots of hugs when your spouse is around. Inconsistency will lead to divide and conquer, conflict and resentment from the children and even parents.
This post is written by Jackie Keya, the Founder of The Blended Family Network, an organization that supports blended families to be happy families.
Author: Wanjiru Kihusa
I am Wanjiru Kihusa and I’m a writer and founder of Still A Mum – an organization that seeks to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in Africa. I am especially passionate about women and children.
I blog to share my thoughts and experiences hoping that in the process someone will learn from my life.