Friday, September 6, 2013

Just Ask Joyce: "How can I help my blended family come together?"

Q: “I’m in my second marriage. We love each other; we really do. Our only problem is his children won’t accept me. My children have adjusted very well to this ‘new man’ being in the home. I knew going into this relationship it would be a struggle with his daughter; I never realized, however, how difficult his 13-year-old son would be. My husband is struggling with guilt and is transferring his emotions to me. I want to be patient, but the situation doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Do you have any suggestions for blending these two families in order to keep our marriage strong?”

Joyce: When families blend together, there are many changes being introduced into several households during a short period of time. It can challenge even the most secure individual, yet adults often would like for children seeking security and growing into maturity to adapt at an unnatural pace.

Not to discourage you, but the stressful dynamics surrounding your new home life are likely to be around for a season. Or two. You are wise, however, to seek guidance in order to salvage the harmony you and your husband enjoy one-on-one.

The first thing you must remember is a guideline Ron Deal has espoused for decades regarding blended families: You don’t get to decide when the children let you in. One day you’re in; the next, you’re out. It’s much the same with our own flesh-and-blood children, but it is terribly complicated with the advent of his/mine/ours. Since it’s typically not the child who first falls in love with a parent’s choice of a new mate, it can feel like a force-fed sense of parental recognition.

Your stepdaughter’s jealousy is a natural female instinct and one often displayed by young girls even in the traditional, uninterrupted marriage setting. You will need to be sensitive to her need for Prince Daddy to be in her life on her limited clock of visitation. Likewise, your husband has a son who is in his vulnerable years of seeking identity as a man. His kids, like yours, are likely dealing with varying degrees of anger and resentment for life and home as they knew it being disrupted by the injection of a new parent, perhaps two.

Here are a few suggestions to help you unravel the tangled strings in your blended family:
  1. Develop a formula for family times that includes all scenarios: him + his kids; him + your kids; you + his kids; you + your kids; both of you + his kids; both of you + your kids; both of you + all kids; both of you + no kids. Complicated? Yes, I know. Not enough time? Yes, there is. Make it happen. Don’t expect too much too quickly, but with time, everyone will begin to sense he/she is special to both of you.
  2. Have a regular family meeting. It’s a say-what’s-on-your-mind-with-no-consequences time. Let everyone voice his or her concerns and wishes. Then, ask what each person in the family unit is willing to do to respond to concerns and achieve wishes. Work on a reasonable timeline, and revisit the issues at the next family meeting.
  3. Assess how each parent can be more sensitive to each child’s needs. Bear in mind that you are the mature ones in the home, and you model behavior.
  4. Remember: children are precocious. If they sense division between the generals, they will encircle your camp.
  5. Seek outside help sooner than later. Don’t allow family life to get out of control. Get Ron Deal’s The Smart Stepfamily: 7 Steps to a Healthy Family, or Chip Ingram’s House or Home Parenting Edition. If necessary, seek local professional help.
  6. Be kind, gentle, patient, and firm. Don’t be a doormat; they won’t respect you. Also, be that someone each child will remember with deep respect, that someone who is constant, loyal, and loves her husband.
  7. Blended families rarely become puréed, but the combination can be one that is appetizing for all.
Ron Deal info found at: familylife.com
Chip Ingram info found at: livingontheedge.org
Change your life … NOW! Write Joyce Oglesby, Family-Life Fitness Pro™, at joyce@justaskjoyce.com. I’m here to help! Check out my books and other resources today at JustAskJoyce.com.

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