When getting it off your chest and talk to your blended family is sometimes a bad idea
Blended Family communication is not always helpful. Various self-help advisors counsel that being direct and honest about our feelings is a good way to get our needs met. This is good advice, but it does deserve a little bit of temperance when it comes to dealing with blended family conflicts. As one of the adults in a blended family situation, we sometimes have to temporarily put our own feelings on the back burner.
Venting does not always clear the air in your step family
While it may feel good to express outrage at things the step children have or have not done, things our blended family spouse has or has not said to the ex-spouse, or perhaps something the in-laws have alluded to, sometimes venting anger can do more damage than good. Words spoken in anger are usually regretted right away, and they often inflict damage to relationships with your spouse and step children, and even family friends. Seldom are the short-term feelings of vindication we get from blowing off steam worth it.
Blended Family time-outs for parents and partners
The next time you are angry, either with your blended family spouse or with one of your step children, consider taking a time-out. You will be able to communicate much better when you are calm, and less likely to say something you might later regret. Admit you are angry and ask for time to cool off before continuing your conversation. Be clear that you intend to come back to finish the conversation in a moment or two, when you have calmed down. Handling your anger in this way demonstrates both your willingness to talk about the issue and your desire to listen and speak respectfully.
Roadblocks to effective listening
Many barriers get in the way of our ability to listen to one another, whether it is between step family spouses, or step parent and step child. Some of the most common roadblocks are:
- Thinking you already know what they will say and responding to that
- Interrupting to argue a point or worse, to finish the other person’s thought
- Rushing in with a solution before hearing the entire problem
- Filtering out what you do not want to hear
- Continuing to do an unrelated task while pretending to listen
Everyone deserves to feel that the people in their lives value what they have to say. By practicing good listening skills, you encourage people to share their feelings, ideas, and questions. As parents, we want our children to talk to us, so we owe it to them and to ourselves to listen every time they do. As partners leading a blended family, we not only need to communicate well enough to manage our blended family, but in such a way that our relationship flourishes in trust and acceptance that is grounded in caring and respectful communication. Practice healthy communication without barriers in your step family home. If you need additional assistance, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center for coaching.