Blended family meetings are good for you
Not many of us were brought up in families that held meetings, so it is understandable if some of us are not very keen on the idea of meeting regularly as a blended family. Yet, virtually all blended family or step family experts strongly advocate holding family meetings, and holding them on a regular basis! Let’s remind ourselves why regular meetings are necessary and how blended family members can benefit from them.
Why are blended family meetings necessary?
Meetings are vital to blended families because our members do not yet share common history, rituals, or memories, and we have not established methods of resolving differences, misunderstandings, and conflicts. Blended family members cannot draw on the slowly evolving understanding of each other and of the family dynamic in the same way first families can. Plus, the stressful combination of loss, divorce, change, loss, remarriage, and more change present in a blended family makes it imperative for step family parents to help their merged families cope with everyday life. Blended family meetings are also a great way to learn effective communication skills.
How else can family meetings benefit a blended family?
Blended family meetings, like them or not, represent our best chance of finding out how our kids are doing with everything we have thrown at them. The family meeting is our best chance at getting feedback on how well we are doing as parents and as step parents. It is our best chance to make a positive impact on the bonding processes that step parents, step kids and step siblings are all undergoing simultaneously. A blended family meeting is an excellent reinforcement of parental authority and leadership, and a wonderful exercise in cooperative living among people who care for and respect each other.
Meetings with the step family help manage family issues
Set aside a specific time each month for a regularly scheduled blended family meeting, to stay in touch and to address family problems. The most successful blended families have a plan for conflict resolution in place from the very beginning so that each member of the step family knows what to do when a problem arises. Family meetings, when handled properly, are a great way to resolve family conflicts. Family meetings are not bitch sessions, nor are they a forum for fault-finding, blame-laying, or kitchen sink recitations of pet peeves. The family meeting, as a source of conflict resolution, works best when only one subject is addressed at a time, and there are established rules to let everyone know exactly what to expect.
What your family meeting may look like
The key to a successful blended family meeting is that the parents in each family establishes their own rules. What works for you is correct for your blended family, so be open and flexible and mold your method of conflict resolution to your own group of individuals. That being said, you might agree that anyone in the family who is upset can request a family meeting, and that when a family meeting is called, everyone must attend, no excuses. A date and time is set for the near future, and everyone attends. It is a good idea to have the person with the problem speak first at your family meeting, explain their concern, and then invite family members to honestly help find ways to solve the problem. The goal is conflict resolution, not additional conflicts, so no one is allowed to lose their temper, call names, or lay blame; if someone does, everyone asks them politely to stop it. The goal of the family meeting is to look for solutions together, and everyone stays at the table until everyone agrees on a solution. A successful family meeting is orderly, good natured, and addresses one problem at a time.
If the idea of a family meeting still seems trite or contrived to you, give it a try anyway. Not everyone is comfortable taking part in a round-table discussion that may touch on hurt feelings, anger, frustrations, fear, concerns, or complaints, but these are the things that help make up every blended family – yours, mine, and everyone else’s. Let your blended family meetings teach your kids how to face and deal with difficult issues calmly, intelligently, and with grace. If you need additional assistance, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center for coaching.