8 Ways to Make Your Blended Family a Success

Creating unity in a blended family can be difficult. There is emotional baggage, old habits, alliances, norms and expectations created by the previous family unit that could undermine the unity of the new family. If not aware of and prepared for these potential pitfalls, blending a new family may be less than successful. Everyone will have to be flexible and open to change since a new family and a new sense of normal is being created.

Below are eight suggestions on how to make this process as successful as possible:

  1. Define Expectations: Creating a sense of belonging with your new family is something that each member wants and needs. But how do you create that sense of belonging? What do you do?  When each person in the family is given the opportunity to express their expectations of everyone else, and those expectations are valued, the result is a sense of ownership and belonging. The more someone is invested in a something, the more they feel that sense of belonging. If individuals don’t feel that sense of belonging, it’s because their concerns and expectations haven’t been taken seriously.                                                                                                                                                    
  2. Negotiate Expectations: When everyone has had a chance to share their expectations, there may be some disagreement if an expectation is to be honored or not. Or, someone’s expectation may conflict with another person’s. This is not a crisis, but an opportunity for everyone to practice good listening and respectful negotiation. If the kids want a later bedtime during the weekends, instead of having a ready answer, let them make a case for that expectation. Then, both parties should be open to counter-offers and compromises. There may be some expectations that are a hard “yes” or “no,” but you may be surprised by how many expectations are negotiable. When negotiation is done well, family members feel a greater sense of belonging, investment and connection to the new family unit.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
  3. A Firm Foundation: Your defined and negotiated expectations create a firm foundation for your blended family to stand on. You now have a template that can be applied to all future problems. If you are upset that someone isn’t meeting their end of the bargain, instead of beating them over the head with mockery, accusations, or guilt-trips, go to what you know works. Respect, positive communication, effective listening, and valuing each other’s perspective are not only good for relationships, but they are also effective at enhancing mutual understanding and conflict resolution. Make these values and skills your bedrock on which everything else is built.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
  4. Feet in Both Camps: A strong connection to one family is not a rejection of another. What do I mean by that? An individual may feel a stronger connection to one family versus the other. And that’s okay. That should not be seen as a threat to the new family that’s being created. You are not betraying one family by engaging, participating, or enjoying the new family that’s being created and vice versa.                                                                     
  5. Grace: Give each other grace. There are going to mishaps, stepping on each other’s toes, and mistakes. Forming a new family unit is not an easy process. Grace allows relationships to be elastic when stretched and when you blend two families there will be stretching. The grace that will help your family make blending possible, will also enable your family to go the distance. So, take the opportunity to make grace the foundation and culture of your new family.
  6. Comparisons: Comparing one family to another can be dangerous. I encourage families to find and focus on the merits of each family they are a member of and not to use the strengths of one as ammunition against the other. It’s far too easy to make comparisons and complain. Take the high road and find value where you can.
  7. Cooperation: Divorce and separation don’t truly cut one person off from another, especially when there are kids involved. You will still have to cooperate with the person you are divorced or separated from. If you want to minimize the potential for toxicity then you will have to get along with that person for the benefit of the kids involved. That means communicating well, co-parenting effectively, and limiting your expression of negativity regarding the other person. When these practices are not in place, kids are the ones who suffer the most.
  8. Middleman: Do not, I repeat, do not make your kids the middleman between you and your former spouse or partner. There is nothing more damaging for a child then having to be the mediator between their divorced or separated parents. Be adults and co-parent effectively to create the best possible situation for your kids.

Question and Action Steps:

Questions for Reflection: What would you add to the list above? We would love to hear from you! Comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

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