Three Things To Know About Blending Families
If you ask 10 people about blending families, you will probably get 9 different answers. Some things work for some people. But, as with life, there are no perfect instructions. Blending families is when two adults come together who have children from previous relationships. Blending comes in all shapes and forms. Some couples will come in having kids on both sides, some will come in having kids on one side, some will have adopted kids, some will have all the above, and some may even have bonus kids from previous marriages that are involved and loved. Let me begin by saying these are bonus families and kids, not step-families. Bonus means “something in addition to what is expected or strictly due” (Merriam-Webster, 2023).
I have three children while my husband has one. His son was in the military when we were married and all three of mine were under 16 years old. Now, I have a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren through my bonus son. They are my kids and my granddaughters. His bonus daughter and her family are mine, also.
Three important things in these relationships are communication, traditions, and value. Communication between the adults, between the children, and between the adults and the children. Traditions are something solid that can be built upon with all the people involved. Love and value are both received and given.
Clear and honest communication is vital. If the adults convey this with each other, then the children will be able to learn from their modeling of the behavior. Quite a few situations could be avoided or solved with clear and honest communication. The value of “I” statements such as “I feel…”, “I felt…” or “I believe…” is immeasurable. It will reduce feelings of blame and increase respect while being a skill that will aid in most areas of life. When there is good communication, respect will usually follow. Defense mechanisms will be reduced and both sides will be more open to the other’s thoughts and ideas.
Topics to cover may include discipline, finances, inheritances, schedules, coparenting, boundaries, and rules. You don’t have to agree, but if you do, then great. Sometimes you may need to agree to disagree. Compromise goes a long way as long as both sides feel heard and appreciated. Sometimes the compromise will be more in one direction than the other. However, there needs to be an overall balance where neither side feels they give more than they receive most of the time.
Routines, traditions, and quality time help to strengthen the bonds of all the members. If there were any of these before the blending, then they need to continue with the new bonus members. This is a source of comfort to the original family and will increase the bond with the new family. The original family will be able to share, while the new family will be able to learn. This is a win-win situation. The more the old routines become new routines, the closer the bond will grow between all the members involved.
Quality time is also key. Quality time over quantity of time is very important. When there is together time, put the electronic devices down and talk with each other. Distractions take focus and attention away from the other person. This, in turn, decreases their feeling of importance in the relationship. Let them know you care by giving them your full attention and making their important things your important things.
Love and value are not freely given, nor are they easily received. These both take time, energy, and effort. Children are not only listening, but are also feeling the emotions as well. Adults and children have intuition that tells them about the other person's intent. They know if someone lies repeatedly or says one thing while doing another. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
Consistency and compassion play a part in both love and value in relationships. There is comfort in knowing where you stand with the other person and what is to be expected. Feeling cared for will grow the bonds between the individuals and the families. The children need to see the love and value the two parents have for each other. It will be a source of comfort and strength.
There is no perfect formula when it comes to bringing people together. Problems will arise. Sometimes there will be effective communication that will resolve all the issues. Other times there will be no resolution to the issue and a compromise will have to be made in which there needs to be clear communication to reduce conflict. Other times, there will be no settling of the issue at all. Table it for later when everyone involved has had time to think and process the issue.
A solid foundation needs to be built between the two families that are coming together. The three things that help this are communication, traditions, and value. Respecting the other person, whether they are an adult or a child, will continue to solidify the relationship and will give it the lasting power it needs in this day and age. Life stressors come at families fast. Family strength does come in numbers. The adage “united we stand, divided we fall” is still very true and applies to the adults and the children. It is hard living in the same space as others, but you can make it work. Working hard for something absolutely does make it more valuable. Love will grow where it is planted and nurtured. Love makes a family.
Interested in working with someone who can relate to your unique family situation and give you the tools to communicate effectively? I’m a Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor (PLPC) with personal and professional experience working with blended families. Request an appointment with me at Lifeologie Counseling Shreveport or find a Lifeologie Counseling family therapist near you.
About Catherine “Cat” Van Winterswyk
Cat specializes in mind-body connection, addiction, grief, trauma, and Christianity. She believes that a person’s experiences throughout their lifetime help to create the person they are today and also knows the mind and body work together for the overall health of the individual. Cat uses an eclectic counseling style that incorporates numerous theories and methods with her clients. She incorporates mindfulness, grounding, and relaxation techniques in addition to aromatherapy, sound therapy, breathing techniques, and visualization among other sensory components in her sessions. She is also EMDR certified. She sees adults at Lifeologie Counseling Shreveport.Meet Me