Words are important, but not the only way to communicate in your Blended Family
Communication tools and actions help build a strong connection between blended family members. Spending time together as a family or in one-on-one activities, and even openly confronting issues that cause conflict, are important strength-building activities for a step family. Strong, well-functioning step families use a variety of communication methods with one another. A healthy blended family shares a number of communication skills, including listening to each other, addressing conflict directly and in a positive way, openly sharing personal interests and opinions, and taking part in activities together. Step family memberswork at building nurturing relationships by developing new family standards and rituals, treating each other with respect and consideration, sharing mealtime discussions and private family jokes, and by paying attention to body language and tone of voice as much as they do words spoken.
Additional communication skills for your step family
In addition to the important communication skills listed above, healthy step families also share these characteristics:
- Positive relationship with former spouse. When blended family parents are able to maintain a cordial relationship with their former spouse, positive communication between children and their parents is more successful.
- A committed relationship between the blended family spouses. Your new marriage is the center of the blended family, and a model for good communication, cooperation and consideration for your children.
- Compromise is an essential communication tool. It signals that meeting the needs of the collective blended family is more important than being right, or getting your own way.
Active listening an important aspect of communication
Building a relationship with step children, helping your own children cope with the stresses of a new blended family and step sibling environment, and managing a new couple relationship all require you to pay close attention to what people are saying. When one of your blended family members speaks to you, listen. Try not to think about listening as something that can be multi-tasked. Stop what you are doing. Turn and face the speaker. Listen to words. Watch their body language. Hear the tone of voice. Respond with appropriate words, actions, and facial expression. By giving your undivided attention, you communicate your commitment to sharing your time with the speaker, and wanting to understand what the speaker needs, wants, or wishes to share with you. By making yourself available, you communicate the value you place on the speaker and his or her place in your life.
Words still do count
The words we choose when talking with blended family members are nonetheless important. Make it a point in your blended family home to use only respectful and considerate language with each other. Put name calling, derisive remarks, and mean spirited teasing off limits. Make family mealtime a platform for discussion where everyone can practice the art of cordial and meaningful conversation; learning to speak up, support or defend a point of view, and listen to opposing views are important life skills, and vital to the success of a blended family. Talk to and with each other. Make your blended family home a place where everyone can feel accepted, safe, and empowered to voice their ideas, wishes, needs and desires, without fear of reprisal or ridicule. Communication. Where would we be without it. If you have additional issue and need more assistance, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.