In our modern age, families come in many shapes and sizes which is a wonderful thing however, unfortunately blending families isn’t always as seamless as we may have hoped.
Whilst there isn’t a specific or simple definition, when we are combining family members, children, or extended family into one unit, we could consider it ‘blending’. Whatever the dynamic of the new unit we are bringing together, it’s important to understand the complexities that may present and arm yourselves with some tools that may assist you to navigate any rough seas along the way!
Some challenges that can arise include, but are not limited to; personality clashes, discipline, routine, equality, communication, chores, nutrition, education, responsibility, family values, social etiquette, sense of humour and managing conflict just to name a few.
Some of my top recommendations to navigate this exciting (and sometimes nerve-wracking) transition include;
Be patient and allow time: whilst the adults in the new family unit have had time to get to know each other, develop a relationship and fall in love, it’s important to note that any non-biological relationships between adults and children, will likely take a lot longer to evolve so my first suggestion is to allow undefined time for all relationships to naturally develop, trying to push or pressure individuals to get along with each other may unintentionally interfere with natural connections forming in their own time.
Prioritise time for biological relationships: it is natural to want to create as much time as possible for the new family unit to bond but change isn’t always easy for young people so carving out some 1:1 time each week for children and biological parents to connect can be very beneficial to maximise communication, offerreassurance and remove any risk of jealousy, confusion or feelings of abandonment that may arise.
Discuss, agree and implement house rules/expectations early & keep consistent: try to be mindful that children are coming from different house dynamics and are often having to get accustomed to not only one but two new sets of house rules, space, relationships etc. Young people are generally very resilient, and they can learn to thrive within different dynamics well (i.e., school has one set of rules and team sport has another and children can move between them with no
issue) so the goal of the adults should be to define the rules, expectations, and boundaries within their household upfront and keep them consistent so that the children know what to expect.
Let the biological parent manage most of the discipline: (especially in the early days): this is where the rubber hits the road, and the potholes can be the largest! Many issues I see in my clinic working with my fabulous, blended families centre around different approaches to discipline (between adults) and feelings of resistance or resentment (from the children). The best way to approach this is for the adults to work together and get on the same page from the get-go, and to allow each other to be the primary disciplinarians for biological children, especially in the
beginning whilst trust is being built.
Adults should give more than they ask: when building relationships with non-biological children I like to use the 9:1 rule. Adults should give 9 positive encounters (kind words, encouragement, help, support compliments etc) to every 1 parental direction (demand, order, request, direction, criticism, discipline etc) this ensures that the relationship is built on a positive foundation with the hope that the child will be more responsive to authority when required.
Like any transition, blending families can be bumpy but they also make some of the happiest homes. With some conscious awareness, planning, open communication and maintaining an open heart you can overcome any hurdle and if you ever need a hand, always reach out for support!
For more empowering information or to book a conscious parenting coaching session
reach out to Jodee https://www.facebook.com/jodeemarqueshhwb
Jodee Marques, The Holistic Therapist