Bonding in a blended or step family
Creating a happy blended family takes planning, time, and effort. And it takes an environment that supports mutual respect and stimulates growth as a family. As the leaders of your blended family, you and your partner can provide a home where you and your children meld two separate groups into one unified family.
Blended family basic needs
• A home where open lines of communication are encouraged and practiced
• Scheduled whole blended family time for bonding and learning about each other
• Affirmations of love, verbal and non-verbal
• Clearly established rules that are consistently maintained and enforced
• Positive reinforcement for positive behaviors
Step parents can help lead the team
Kids love belonging – to a team, and to a family. Make it a point that you and your partner attend sports games, spelling bees, concerts, and other activities in which your blended family children participate. This shows your children that you love and support them, and also helps bring you back to the perspective you once had as children.
Make new memories in your step family and share old ones
Find a fun activity your entire blended family can enjoy together, such as joining a cycling club or volunteering at a food kitchen. Volunteers are often needed to spearhead an organized activity for children: become a Boy Scout leader, a soccer coach or church youth leader. Let your kids and your step kids see that you are committed to them, to parenting, and to your blended family. Sit down together to share personal collections of pictures.
Ask your step kids to talk about when and where certain pictures were taken, names of friends and relatives, and other details that help you get to know them better; kids love to see photos of their parents, and their step parents, when they were younger. Sharing old pictures of you with your blended family provides an opportunity to share stories of your youth, helping step kids get to know you better.
Talk is good in a blended family
Teach your kids and step kids how to enjoy conversation. Openly discuss current events with your blended family whenever you have the chance, such as in the car, while eating breakfast, etc. Listen to their perspective on the world, and discuss with them how specific news events affect their own lives. Show them you respect them by talking with them rather than at them, and really listen to what they have to say. Open communication begins with candid discussion, and lets your kids know that their thoughts matter.
Establish a blended family game night one night a week, and play all your favorites. Find inexpensive gifts at the dollar store or candy aisle for prizes and awards, if you like. Competition can be difficult for some kids, so be sensitive to those who may get stressed or worried. Allow absolutely no teasing or other unsportsmanlike behavior. Family game night can be an effective exercise in bonding when it is safe for everyone, win or lose. Family game night is fun and easy, and you will soon find your blended family members looking forward to the next game night.
Family rooms are for family
Generally speaking, one or both parents decorate the blended family house to their personal tastes and desires. However, if you are going to have a family gathering place, such as a playroom or TV room, why not have parents and step siblings together design the room? This is a great way to work together toward a group achievement, and it gives kids experience with compromise, an important factor in blended family living. Once you have agreed on a plan, get everyone involved in painting the room, shopping at garage sales for furniture and accessories for the room, and refinishing them together. The next time you have family game night or a family meeting, everyone will appreciate all the work that went into it.
When your blended family members spend time together, everyone benefits. You and your step kids get to know and appreciate each other better; step siblings learn to work and achieve together, and to trust each other; you and your blended family partner embrace your entire blended family. If you want your blended family to stay together, make it a point to play together. For more help, consider blended family coaching at The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.