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Transitions are normal in a blended family

As a step parent in a blended family, you may wonder how your own children and your step kids feel about transitioning between two homes, especially during school vacations. Navigating the life changes inherent in having to split their time between divorced parents is difficult enough, but when you add step parents and step siblings to the mix, it can be hard for kids to know where they fit in and how to feel.

Recognizing visitation transitions

During the summer school break, your blended family home may be full of children from previous relationships, or perhaps your custodial children are with their other parent for summer visitation. Either way, the kids are probably feeling a little uncertain about what is expected of them. They may wonder if they will be allowed to telephone their custodial parent, whether they will be able to stay in touch with friends, and how they should act around their step parent and step siblings. Such stresses over visitation realities are common; however, transitioning back to a more normal schedule is often equally difficult.

Give visitation transitions with biological parent time to work themselves out

Depending on the age and development of the child, levels of emotional struggle, degree of difference between his or her two homes, and other factors, many kids need at least one full day to recover. This often is necessary at both ends of visitation: both on arrival at another home, and on returning to their usual home. For the first day, at least, allow the child to simply enjoy being where he is without making any demands on his time or attention except to feel thoroughly welcomed. Once he has settled in, ask your questions, listen to his comments and respond to them, and take your time getting your relationship back on track.

Prepare to have your parenting style critiqued

Not that it should make a big difference on how you and your blended family partner choose to raise the children in your house, listen with compassion and understanding if one of your kids gives a more favorable review of the way his other parent handles things. Many times, the non-custodial parent tries hard to make things easier and more fun at their house; they often feel as if they need to play catch up with their kids’ affection. Being a more responsible parent is not a license to criticize the other, nor is it necessary to point out their failings to your kids. As a matter of fact, criticizing your ex-spouse in front of the children is never a good idea. The parenting style you and your blended family partner have chosen to adopt speaks for itself, and whether they realize it or not, kids thrive in a stable atmosphere where they know what is expected of them.

Give yourself a break

If you can, schedule visitations to and from your step family home during the same time period. If your kids and those of your spouse are all away at the same time, you get more time to yourselves to invest in your relationship, travel, take part in adult activities, and to enjoy the peace and quiet! Take advantage of any and all opportunities to re-connect and celebrate your romance.

The opportunity for your child to spend time with his or her non-custodial parent is important; both to the child and to the parent. Support this connection, and do what you can to make these visitations important and satisfying experiences. Blended family life is rife with change and evolving relationships, and visitations are a prime example of how transitions affect step family kids. With understanding, love, and a clear and open mind, you can help your blended family kids navigate the changes, transitions, and the ever-evolving relationships laid out for them.

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School vacations can be a good time to re-visit the house rules you and your spouse have established. With new schedules and perhaps additional visitors to your home during the summer holidays, you may want to review some of the day-to-day expectations.

Time schedules for your step family

With school out, step moms and step dads will almost certainly see step kids more often, and step siblings will likely have more time together, too. Consider revising bedtimes during school holidays, so long as each member of the entire blended family still gets enough sleep. Sleep is extremely important for growing children, especially for adolescents, but staying up a little later with a focus on blended family activities can carry benefits, too. If your step family daily plan can accommodate it, let your adolescents sleep in later. They will love you for it, and studies have shown that adolescents get most of their beneficial sleep in the morning! Going to bed earlier does not do the trick, the experts say, and as long as they do not sleep away the day, where’s the harm?

Blended family focus

The beginning of summer vacation may be a good time to hold a blended family meeting to review home ground rules. Step family members may suggest revisions for the short term, but be sure that your basics stay intact. Mom and step dad, or dad and step mom, remain in charge of the entire step family unit. While bio parents should always take the lead on issues of obedience, and with any consequences for their kids, a step parent at the scene of misbehavior must always confront the offender and take whatever action is appropriate.

Assigned chores and permissions may need revising to accommodate summer sports schedules, other-parent visitation schedules, or time spent with friends, and to be sure everyone is treated fairly. Step siblings watch to see that everyone is treated equally, and it is good to note that “fair” does not always mean “equal.” A teenager’s permission to go to the movies with friends does not mean that every child in the family has to see a movie, for instance. Young children need more sleep and earlier bedtimes, but may cheerfully enjoy early morning activities without their older step siblings!

Take time

Summer activities often keep us busier than we’d like, but try to be conscious of how well you are listening to your spouse and the other step family members when they talk to you. Practice active listening; stop what you are doing, look at the person talking to you, and make a thoughtful and caring response to what has been said. If you simply cannot stop what you are doing at the moment, say when you will be able to listen, and then keep to that promise. Communication is always improved when people talk with each other, rather than talk to each other.

Blended family summer fun

Spouses, summertime fun applies to you, too. Be sure to continue your regular date nights, and seek out time to be alone. It is good to remind yourselves on a regular basis why you fell in love and why you chose to create this blended family. You deserve time to yourselves, and may even need to recharge your step parenting batteries from time to time!

Step children and step siblings need to recharge their batteries too, so give everyone a break now and then and allow for individualized time with bio parents and kids. A simple trip to the hardware store or garden shop can be a fruitful opportunity for talking and checking in to see how things are going. Be sure to check in on a regular basis; your views may differ from that of your child.

This summer vacation, spend as much time as a blended family as you can, building relationships and memories; and be sure to balance blended family time with those times between bio parents and kids, and between you and your spouse, which are so valuable.

 

School summer break is coming soon, and you may be wondering how it will go when your blended

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 family is all together; the kids who live with you have settled into a fairly good routine with visits from step siblings, and you have been able to establish reasonably good relationships with your step kids. Now is a good time to step it up a notch!

Blended family summer schedules

Scheduling summer vacation visitations can be complicated, but all it takes is a calendar and email or a telephone, and tons of patience and flexibility. Hopefully, you have been able to schedule times when everyone can be together as a blended family, and others when your kids and step kids are all with their other parents, giving you and your spouse some well-earned time alone. If this kind of schedule will not work this year, try for next year!

Use school vacations to blend more completely as a step family unit

The everyday routine is established, and you are reasonably pleased with how well it is working with school and homework, visitations and activities. During summer vacation, when you get more time with each other as a step-family, take advantage of the time! Make your home a welcome place for bio and step kids to bring their friends. Adolescent members of your step family need time with their friends, especially, but be sure to encourage them to make an effort to join step siblings and you for blended family time, also. Helping them to set limits on their own activities and time teaches important life lessons and reinforces their important place in your blended family.

What shall we do?

Family time, blended or otherwise, is all about building and maintaining relationships, and about enjoying each other. Blended family summer vacations can be a perfect time for step siblings to bond and for step parents and step kids to deepen their relationships, too. Talk with your spouse about possible outings or trips, and before you approach the kids to ask for their input, come up with a few options that could work with your schedules and your budget.

Be up front with your step family about time or budget constraints, and do not feel you must complete with fantastic vacation plans made by your ex-spouse. Mostly, both step kids and bio kids just want to spend time with their parents.

Stay-cation

So long as everyone is comfortable, happy and reasonably occupied with things to do, summertime at home can be fun and rewarding for the entire step family. Introduce the idea of a stay-cation, where you stay at home and take day trips to interesting and fun destinations within driving distance. This can work well with a step family who has obligations with sports teams or family reunions, or with summer school.

Schedule barbeque nights, picnic lunches, dessert making contests, backyard camping, ghost story bonfires, and reading circles. Believe it or not, even older kids like being read to now and then. Board game marathons are a good way for older step-siblings to stay engaged with each other, and littler kids just want your undivided attention, doing anything, for extended periods of time.

Traveling

If your blended family decides to travel, discuss behavioral expectations, including what to wear, what to pack and whether cell phones and computer games will be allowed during group times. In the best of times, communicating with a teenager can be difficult, and downright impossible if they are tuned out from you and from their step siblings!

Step family time spent together can be fun and rewarding no matter what the activity, so long as everyone feels included, loved and appreciated. Take advantage of school breaks to strengthen blended family ties. Now is the time to create meaningful memories with step parents and step siblings all your kids can keep with them, long after the summer holiday.