The 4 Greatest Lessons I Learned Growing Up in a Blended Family

BY: - 12 Sep '16 | Blended Families

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I love that BMWK has dedicated an entire month to blended families. According to smart stepfamilies.com, 40 percent of married couples with children are actually blended families. Dedicating a week to discuss it just makes sense.

I personally don’t know life outside of a blended family. My parents ended their relationship very early, and my dad married and began a new family. My mom is married, and her husband has two children. My feeling like an outsider wasn’t really anyone’s fault.

My dad would pick me up on weekends to spend time with his family, but it was sometimes awkward for me; I didn’t quite know how I fit. I sometimes felt I was being disloyal to my mom if I enjoyed myself too much. So I observed. I observed my dad and stepmom, my mom and my dad, and my dad and his other children. You really learn a lot when you pay attention. Even when my parents didn’t know they were teaching, they were and here’s what I learned about blended families.

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Friendship between parents is everything
My mom and dad are still friends to this day. They care about and support one another. They made sacrifices along the way for my benefit. The major one was to get over any hurt feelings that the relationship failed and focus on being good parents to me.

Adult conversations are just for adults
My parents did a great job of protecting all of their children from their adult feelings and drama. I’ve never heard them speak ill of one another. Nor did I hear my mom speak ill of my stepmother as I was growing up. I’m sure it was challenging in the beginning, however, they made it work.

Make sure all of the children feel special and included
My mom taught me this one specifically and continues to demonstrate it with her adult step-children. I observe how kind she is to them, and she goes out of her way to make sure both are comfortable and feel at home. It’s never a mine or his, but more a ours feel when we’re together.

The bond between the children is important
My siblings, on my dad’s side, have never made me feel less than their complete sister. We’ve never used “half-sister” or “half-brothers.” We’re sisters and brothers, and that’s it. Those relationships are so crucial, especially to those children who feel outside of the family. I’m grateful my parents encouraged those strong relationships.

Being in a blended family taught me about family, but also about life in general. There are successes and failures in our intimate relationships. But how we move forward, especially when children are involved, is key to the strength of that family and the future of that child.

BMWK, what lessons do you think you’re teaching your children about blended families?

About the author

Tiya Cunningham-Sumter wrote 623 articles on this blog.

Tiya Cunningham-Sumter is a Certified Life & Relationship Coach, founder of Life Editing and Author of A Conversation Piece: 32 Bold Relationship Lessons for Discussing Marriage, Sex and Conflict Available on Amazon . She helps couples and individuals rewrite their life to reflect their dreams. Tiya has been featured in Essence and Ebony Magazines, and named one of the top blogs to read now by Refinery29. She resides in Chicago with her husband and two daughters. To find out more about Tiya, and her coaching, visit www.thelifeandlovecoach.com and www.theboldersister.com.

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So You Have a New Stepfamily, 4 Things You Should Not Expect Right Away

BY: - 14 Sep '16 | Blended Families

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I have to be extremely honest. I didn’t know what to expect when bringing together a blended family.

Blending different factions (especially when there are so many differences between the family members) is no easy feat. As husband and wife, you are each raised differently; as well, you have raised your children differently.  Expectations around things like homework and household chores are different.  Systems of discipline are going to be different.  The way the family members express and receive love and express criticism

For example, expectations around things like homework and household chores are different.  Systems of discipline are going to be different.  The ways the family members express and receive love and express criticism are different.  The list of contrasts between the parties in a stepfamily is almost endless.

But I have discovered one key to all this. It is to expect that the alignment of the families is going to take time.  Patience truly is a virtue when blending families.

Discuss ways to blend your families, but don’t set unrealistic timelines for your family to meld. Here are four key processes stepfamilies should not expect to happen right away.

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Chores/Household Maintenance

My awesome wife has a specific regimen to keep the house the way she expects it to look—a certain way to wash, dry and put away the dishes.  She has a certain way to make the bed and a specific expectation of how every bathroom should look.

Me on the other hand, I’m a little farther to the left of center on this. I’m not quite as neat, and I’m definitely not as orderly about the way chores should get done.  And some of my traits trickled down to my daughter.

So, one thing I made clear when we blended our families is that my wife’s requests will be respected and her word is final when it comes to getting things taken care of around the house. It took time for her regimen to sink in, but now, my daughter knows her expectations, and she’s a little mini-me of my wife when it comes to chores.  To be honest, I think my daughter has received the message even better than I have, but don’t tell my wife…

Bonding

I knew a couple who had a child, and the biological mother was so overprotective, it was tough for the man to bond with the young man.  Bonding takes time and a level of trust that’s built over time.  Bonding is going to take a lot of patience with all parties.

There are times when the biological parent has to let go a bit so the other parent can have the opportunity to build the level of relationship and trust where they can truly have a bond. Furthermore, you could even be exercising your control over how you want your child and spouse to bond, so allow the new parent the opportunity to plan bonding moments outside of your influence.

And again, remember it’ll take time, so even if the first few attempts weren’t successful, try not to swoop in and dominate their relationship. Give them a chance to figure it out on their own.

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Respect

Depending on where you are from, respect is not given, it’s earned.  This can apply to children as well.  We have to remember they were raised in a way that than the new parent isn’t accustomed to—and possibly even different than the new parent is raising their own biological children.

Earning respect (on both sides) requires both the child and parent to put in work.  When a child sees a new parent treating their biological parent with love, this helps the child build respect.  When a child sees the new parent reasoning with the child and showing love to the child in a way they receive it, this helps build respect.

You will generally earn a child’s respect when you show you have their best intentions at heart.  This doesn’t mean the child will be perfect, but they will respect you.

My daughter is respectful, so she was naturally respectful of my wife.  My wife still worked to earn her trust and loyalty, which builds the foundation for the utmost respect, which I think they have for each other.

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Discipline

One of the more complicated challenges of blended families is learning what discipline works and agreeing on discipline for children.  This conversation needs to happen before marriage.

There needs to be a level of expectation, and both parents must commit to being on the same page regarding it.  Even after that, understand the child is learning new behaviors in discipline, so expect that child to fight against it.

We have to be sensitive to the child’s needs because the child is learning a new way of doing things.  We also must have a united front on discipline with children because if the discipline is not united, then the child will take advantage of the lack of discipline and sometimes cause problems in the marriage.

Discipline should always be agreed upon by both parents and always in the best interest of growth in the children.

My wife was hesitant on giving discipline at first, but she always stood united with me, no matter what discipline was handed out.

Ultimately, all of these points harken back to the most important point of any blended family, you must get the parents and children on the same page.  It doesn’t happen overnight, it definitely didn’t in my house.  That said, it can and will happen if we put the work into setting agreed upon expectations and daily working for everyone in the house to get on the same page.

BMWK, what other processes took time when you blended your family?

About the author

Jay Hurt wrote 85 articles on this blog.

Jay Hurt is a Relationship Coach, columnist and author of the book, The 9 Tenets of a Successful Relationship (http://9tenetsonline.com/about-the-book ). Jay’s focus is working with people who want to design better relationships and get more out of life!

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