The importance of good communication in your blended family
You and your blended family spouse have lots to talk about: step parenting, step kids, biological kids, ex-spouses, visitation, child support, alimony, and the list goes on. It is critical that you communicate about these and other blended family issues. Many of us grew up in households where nobody talked openly about their feelings, concerns, needs, or wishes. Most traditional families operated on the premise that things almost always worked themselves out; and for the most part, they almost always did. While a traditional family may, at times, be able to get along without much extra effort, a blended family needs to clearly understand and address the divergent demands inherent to step family life.
Nothing is off the table in your step family
You and your blended family spouse ought to be able to discuss anything and everything if you are to be effective leaders of your blended family. Unless you can both feel okay voicing concerns, frustrations, fears, and all the other emotions which affect step parents on a regular basis; unless you can both feel okay talking about step family financial issues, custodial matters, uncooperative ex-spouses or battling step siblings, your blended family can soon spin out of control. You both need to know you can talk with the other about anything and everything; unless you have a clear picture of where your partner stands on these important issues, how can you know what to expect when a problem arises?
Primary blended family relationships
When you fell in love with your new blended family partner, your kids may have worried that your love for them would be moved to second place. They were wrong, but in reality not that far off, especially in kid terms. In kid terms, loving them best can mean getting all your attention, and having your decisions and efforts focused only on them. Couples who center a traditional marriage on their children put their own relationship at risk; couples with children who need help with unresolved feelings of loss or anger are at even greater risk. Ongoing family struggle translates to relationship risk, and you can always count on the step family dynamic for potential struggle. The solution? Focus on keeping your couple relationship your primary relationship. If you two have it together, individual struggles will be easier to handle, and you will be better parents to your blended family kids.
We need to talk
The concept of scheduling regular blended family meetings may seem trite or even a waste of time for some step family members. Nevertheless, it is a communication tool which has proven to be very successful for many step families, especially in the early stages of blending. The first benefit of the blended family meeting is your obvious commitment to establishing a forum for communication between the two groups of people who make up your step family. They help step kids and step parents, and step siblings, begin to see themselves as a new family unit with a common purpose. Blended family meetings also provide an excellent place to model and practice effective ways of presenting a complaint or concern, listening respectfully to others, asking for and receiving opinions, and understanding how and why decisions are made.
Effective communication is vital to your blended family. If you need help establishing your blended family meetings, read blended family advice on this and other step family advice websites, join a local blended family support group, or talk with a family therapist with experience with the special challenges step families experience.