Friday, October 17, 2014
KEYS TO SUCCESSFULLY BLENDING FAMILIES
We are living in an age now where there seem to be more blended families than original ones. By 'blended', I am referring to reconstituted or second marriages or partnerships involving children from either or both parties. I am from a blended family. My parents divorced when I was a toddler and my brother was 4 years old. My father did not remarry for 10 years, but when he did, there were three children to the second marriage. Suddenly our Dad was not just 'ours' anymore.
It is no easy thing, being part of a blended family. Insecurity amongst the children is just one major factor. So, how can we better prepare ourselves and our kids for a smooth transition to a new family structure?
BONDING TAKES TIME
Studies show that it takes up to 7 years on average for a new family to be totally integrated.
An instant rapport with stepchildren does not happen quickly. As a step-parent, you cannot expect
children to call you ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ immediately. In fact, it may never happen. Sometimes children have been previously told negative things about their 'to be' step-parent, and this makes a relationship difficult to establish. Genuine affection and commitment only comes when trust and respect are built up between all family members.
CREATE A SECURE ENVIRONMENT
Kids of blended families need to feel they are being treated fairly and are valued by the step-parent. There is already likely to be a high level of anxiety and insecurity felt by the children, so reassurance is the most important aspect to get across.
a) Clear expectations within the new family unit (strong family values as well as
boundaries); the same rules for all.
b) Fair discipline from their own parent.
c) Structure and routine so they know what is happening, at least most of the time.
d) Incentives to do well. Kids always respond better to praise rather than reprimand.
e) Individual quality time. Initially with their own parent, but eventually with both
parents. This is a time for kids to talk about how they are feeling within the new
family unit. It is a time for parents to assure their own child that they are loved
just as much as they were before, but that you are sharing your love with the other
parent which is important for your relationship-building as part of the new family
CREATE A NEW FAMILY IDENTITY
Each child is having to fit into a different structure and age order. Your youngest may not be the baby of the family anymore. If you have more children, then your first children need to feel they are part of the new family identity.
Create a new family shield that represents each of you. Agree on a motto and let the kids design and draw the new shield. This way they can literally see that they are an important part of the new family.
Written by Sally Burgess
Forefront Families LLC