Blended families are unique and dynamic. A couple that came together with one or both having children from a previous relationship, the couple falls in love and dreams of their children loving each other. Sometimes the couple adds more children to the family.
Now you have these children who came from two different homes coming together having all of these new siblings. How do you make that work? How do you become a team and turn these strangers into a family that loves, or at least respects, one another? It’s not always easy, however here are some tips on how you can make your blended family a team.
1. Everyone in the family must have value. If anyone feels that they are expendable, then you will not build an effective team. This person is not going to be interested in being a part of the new family. To do this I recommend regularly scheduled family meetings where everyone participates and takes turns in the different meeting positions.
2. There should be no judging of opinions. Different opinions don’t mean wrong opinions, it just means different perspectives. If you understand this, then it will be easier to build your team. Even better still, making sure others don’t judge by making it a no-judge zone will go a long way. I also recommend using the format where everyone brainstorms ideas. This is a fun and interactive exercise that helps everyone also get to know each other better.
3. Differences are an opportunity to grow. These different opinions need to be embraced and used as a chance to grow and change the family unit. This is also an opportunity to add humor, so you need to be willing to listen and try to make things work for the betterment of the family unit.
4. No irrational thinking. Parents must always have reasonable thoughts to propel the family forward. Don’t make unnecessary expectations on members of the family, like expecting everyone to instantly love one another. Work on getting them to tolerate each other first. When my husband and I announced to our children we were getting married, two of them had a meltdown & a huge fight and then we had a “come to Jesus family” meeting and we set some new family rules. Since everyone participated and felt heard, it allowed us to set new family rules that worked for our family.
5. Everyone needs to be involved in the resolution process. When planning the family vacation, everyone in the family should be involved in that process – no matter how much conflict may arise from it. This is a great chance to remind everyone that we don’t judge each other’s thoughts and everyone is valuable. Again, we use the family meeting format to allow for participation by all families members in the resolution process. Be sure to create an agenda for each meeting.
6. Cooperation is essential. Don’t make it a dictatorship. Lead by example – it’s NOT ‘my way or the highway.’ The moment you stop cooperating is the moment you lose all control. This does not mean it is a full democratic society, otherwise families with more children than parents will be residing at Disneyland and eating sweets for every meal.
7. Be willing to deal with uncomfortable circumstances in order to reach the end goal of a nicely blended family. We use a talking stick and only one person speaks at a time. This means that everyone gets a turn to speak. This allows for all members of the family to participate in creating a plan and resolution that works for the family. It will be worth it all in the end.
8. Be trustworthy. Parents must create a space of trust. The children are going to be skeptical of everything at first. You’ll need to show them you can be trusted, and that you are willing and able to trust your children as well.
9. Do not manipulate. Persuasion always works better than manipulation.
10. Group consensus is important. Your family is not good by just listening to one person. Everyone must have a say and come to an agreement or compromise on matters.
If you follow these steps to team building, then you shouldn’t have a problem creating a happy blended family. We might not be talking Brady Bunch, but something that at least functions and works is the goal here. It is very possible if you remember these ten steps.
For even more in-depth guidance, consider individualized coaching to help best support you at this time as you navigate these new waters with your blended family.