One of the greatest challenges of the blended family is to redefine what family is for the children involved. Parents may be able to embrace the complexity of the new relationships but children often need help processing what it means to be a family. If you were to draw a traditional nuclear family it would be a circle with the various members of the family located around the edges. A blended family is a group of overlapping circles that contain biological groups, some presently living in the current home and others not. Furthermore, some children in the blended family may go live with the other parent for weekends or extended stays, further complicating the diagram.
Your job is to integrate each member of your household into a unit so that the unit, called a family, is able to function well and accomplish its tasks. Those tasks include getting the business of family life done, transferring godly values to those children, and enjoying healthy relationships. That’s no easy task in a blended family and requires that all the members of that family work hard to develop the relationships necessary to be successful together.
In chapters five through eight of the book Parenting is Heart Work you’ll learn ways to build stronger relationships from a heart perspective. You’ll learn how to use the five levels of communication, understand more about emotions, and put the gratefulness principle into practice in your home.
One of the necessities of the family is that children need discipline. Sometimes the non-biological parent experiences resistance or even resentment when correcting a child. It’s as if the child believes that you have no right to discipline me. But as you know, correction is an important part of learning and being able to receive it from anyone is a necessity. As an adult coming into a child’s life, you earn the right to discipline through relationship. Once you’ve built significant relationship with a child then you’ll have an easier time entering into the correction process. You may want to listen to the CD by Drs Jeff and Judi Parziale entitled The Stepparenting Two Step to gain some more helpful strategies.
In addition to redefining the word family, you may also find it helpful to add the word “team” as a description of the members in your household. All teams need leaders and sometimes the leadership even changes from one person to another. Cooperation and affirmation are qualities of a team so use those concepts to develop the attitude of teamwork necessary. “In our family we work as a team. We play hard and we work hard. That’s part of who we are.”
The concept of honor is so important for blended families. The book Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes, in You and Your Kids teaches the concept of honor in very practical terms. In fact, every chapter of the book contains at least one story or illustration of a blended or single-parent family because we know that honor is especially necessary in these families. Obedience gets the job done but honor deals with how that job is done. You may want to listen to the MP3s by the same name as Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller teach the honor concepts in a live seminar format. Children ages 3-12 will learn from the Kids Honor Club, a children’s program that teaches children what honor means in practical ways using crafts, Bible stories, games, and activities.
Another challenge in the blended family is helping parents get on the same page with discipline strategies. Invariably one of the greatest pressures on the marriage in a blended family (or any family for that matter) is the differences of opinions and methods of dealing with the children. It would be helpful to spend extended time talking about parenting approaches. We would recommend listening together to the eight session MP3 set entitled Eight Secrets to Highly Effective Parenting, or reading the book Good and Angry, Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids as a start. These books give hands on suggestions for working with children in areas such as giving instructions, correction, developing family rules, addressing attitudes, and teaching children to accept no as an answer. The Heart Work Training Manuals and MP3s give you the opportunity to work together to develop and apply parenting routines. You may want to consider working through these lessons as a couple or even with another couple for some accountability.
Blending a family together can be a challenge but the rewards of hard work can pay off greatly. We want to help you as you continue to grow as a family, so stop by often to learn of new resources we have to offer.