Blended families can be quite challenging. Let's face it, when two people get together they come with history from previous relationship breakdowns, disappointments, sadness, pain and or betray, the list is endless. When relationships or marriages breakdown, it is inevitable we carry some residual of that into the next relationship. With that in mind, lets talk about bringing families together and blending them with tips from Redlands Counselling Service.
Change is something that happens all the time, cells are dying and replicating all the time, our bodies ageing losing physical/mental capacity, changing jobs, moving school, fight with partner. When you bring families together that is a major change to everyone' life and you are all trying to figure out how to make it work.
Having a healthy family life contributes a lot to shaping your personality, builds resilience, self esteem and how to give and receive love. However from broken families it may lead to resentment, embarrassment, shame or guilt harbouring negative feelings channelling the negative energy into making life’s decisions.
Blended Families has its complexities of undefined roles in the new setup proves to be a menace for everyone, from parents, step kids, extended families. The harsh reality is that how tough it is contributes to divorce rates for remarried couples being higher than for first-time marriages.
When a step-family is established we come with different beliefs,values,experiences and opinions about what family should look like. Sometimes the children can be victims as they nurture feeling of being torn between two households. Newly married couples in such families hardly get to live the honeymoon period and they have adjustment issues especially for the first two years.
Having spoken about the various challenges faced by blended families let's talk about 5 tips.
Here are some ideas:
1. Focus on individual relationships
Although some parents are eager to be “one big happy family” early on, it’s often a good idea to take things slow and put more emphasis on nurturing individual relationships. Stepparents need time alone with their stepchildren to get to know them, and learn to appreciate who they are and what they like, away from the rest of the family.
A stepparent can set aside fifteen or thirty minutes (up to an hour each week) of special time with their stepchild. It’s a time when the child gets to do whatever they want, within the limits of safety and reason. While avoiding instructing, teaching, or critiquing their stepchild, stepmom or stepdad is there to follow their stepchild’s lead and to fill them with appreciation and respect.
This is an opportunity to find common interests, and create a space that feels safe and relaxed enough for both child and adult to really show one another who they are. These times can set the foundation for a strong and loving relationship between a stepparent and stepchild.
Parents also need special time with their biological children, a time where the child is given the opportunity to direct the play or decide on the outing. Special time reminds a child how important they are to their parent, even as the household changes and parents put their attention on a new partner or other children.
2. Couples need special time together as well. Stresses on all sides can mount quickly in step families, days can be busy, and alone time between couples can easily be put on the back burner. Make time at least once a month to be together without kids, go to the movies, grab dinner, or enjoy a walk, meet up for lunch. Make your relationship a priority.
3. Support children in their transitions
Moving back and forth from one household to another isn’t easy. Transition days can be tough. It is a time when big feelings can erupt and small incidents more easily set children off. If a child begins to cry about going to mommy’s house, or about a granola bar she dropped as she was heading out the door, or a shirt she couldn’t find, lean in, make eye contact, and listen. If a child is allowed to cry, instead of burying her feelings away, chances are her day will go better.
Making room for feelings to erupt as a child settles in after being away for a while or leaves for the other house can make a big difference. Be sure to build in extra time around transitions in case big feelings do surface so you can give your child extra attention in the hours before and after they change households.
4. Using laughter to build closeness and reduce tension
Laughter and physical play can be the antidote to tension that arises in any family, and in blended families it can be used strategically during transition days or to build the relationship between stepparents and stepchildren, as well as between new and old siblings. In our household, we have a ritual of roughhousing after dinner. Wrestling and roughhousing are particularly helpful on the evenings that my stepdaughter returns to our house after being away for a few days.
Look for places where your children laugh and keep that laughter going. Be the goofy one who chases them through the house but can’t quite catch them, let them be the victorious one, while you’re the big, bumbling loser. Play and laughter can reduce tension and unify step families in a wonderful way.
5. Find someone to listen to you
Whether it’s the challenges of trying make your family work, making the space for the storm of emotions that can erupt in any household, or the sadness of saying goodbye to a child as they go off with other parent, we need someone they can talk to relieve the stress of parenting in a blended family. Talking about the stresses of blended families is an essential survival tool. If you need someone to talk to book a counselling session with Redlands Counselling Service.
A friend, a neighbour, another parent or stepparent, anyone that can listen without giving advice. Allow each person to take 15 to 30 minutes to talk, or cry, or laugh about how hard step-families can be at times.
6. Find activities that unite, not alienate, stepchildren and stepparents
A step dad can feel like the odd parent out if mum and her daughter have a ritual of rollerblading every weekend and the step dad isn’t so good on wheels. Find activities that stepparents and stepchildren can do together to bridge the gap.
7. Always speak of other parents with respect
Although it may seem obvious, it’s not always easy. In the heat of the moment when you’re angry or frustrated at the parent who lives in the other household, keep negative comments or tension away from the children. All children want their parents to be respected (no matter how much conflict or hurt has ensued between them). However, all parents deserve to be respected, even in their darkest moments. Children shouldn’t be in the middle of or privy to conflict between parents who are separated.
What children really want is for their parents to get along. We know sometimes that it is not always possible, at least be respectful of one another. Even if a parent is no longer in the picture and the child has lost all contact with their mother or father we can still remind him that his mother who can no longer live with him will always love him.
8. Find a respite from the storm
Even the most dedicated stepparent can get exhausted, overwhelmed, and on the way to burn-out. Stepparents need a place to go to blow off steam and to feel connected with friends and other family. That might mean taking a good novel to another room of the house for a while, or calling a loved one while walking around the block when things get to be too much; Or better yet, plan an overnight to a place in nature with a good friend. Just as parents need time to refuel and reconnect with people they are close to, step-parents also need a respite from the stress of step-parenting.
Blending families is not a day’s job. It requires years of effort, communication and courage. But with the right amount of time to work and the persistence on developing their unique traditions and interactions, step-families can eventually develop lasting and emotionally rich relationships.
If you or your partner need support in making your house a home, talk to Redlands Counselling Service on 1300241 667 or email at Redlandscounselling@gmai.com