Is there a recipe for blend­ing fam­i­lies?

Ev­ery fam­ily has its own unique sit­u­a­tion and needs – but there are ways to make things eas­ier for ev­ery­one.

Little Treasures - - FAMILY FOCUS - the­p­ar­ent­ing­place.com

JOY SLUITERS IS A FAM­ILY

coach at The Par­ent­ing Place, and finds that many new ‘blended fam­i­lies’ come to her with sim­i­lar ques­tions. “The big ques­tion for the step-par­ent is of­ten, ‘What is my role now with these new chil­dren?’” says Joy. “It’s im­por­tant to recog­nise your role is not to re­place the bi­o­log­i­cal par­ent, but to pro­vide warmth and get to know them, and to help them feel se­cure in this new sit­u­a­tion.” That said, Joy notes that even­tu­ally step-par­ents will need to grow into a par­ent­ing role of sorts, in or­der to be able to en­force rules around safety and re­spect in the home. “When this starts to hap­pen it’s im­por­tant the other par­ent give clear au­thor­ity sig­nals to the step-par­ent in front of the chil­dren. They need to show sup­port, oth­er­wise you might be faced with chal­lenges to that au­thor­ity, such as ‘You’re not my fa­ther’ or ‘You can’t tell me what to do,” says Joy, who also notes it’s not about whether to dis­ci­pline, but a ques­tion of style. “Your part­ner’s chil­dren need to get to know you are in­ter­ested in them and their wel­fare, and that you want the best out­come,” she says. “So it’s im­por­tant to keep dis­ci­pline and coach­ing of chil­dren fair and rea­son­able.” Make sure the rules are the same for all the chil­dren, and per­haps check in with your own chil­dren to help them feel part of the team. Ask them to re­mind you what time they went to bed when they were a cer­tain age, or what the rules are around wash­ing up. A good way to build a sense of com­mu­nity in your new fam­ily is a fam­ily meet­ing. “Com­ing to­gether as a fam­ily when you have school age and older chil­dren can be re­ally help­ful,” says Joy. “It’s a chance to clear the air and get on top of things. Make sure ev­ery­one has a chance to speak and be lis­tened to.” Joy says these meet­ings are also a chance to give your new fam­ily a ‘health check’ to see how you’re do­ing, to make changes to rules and set new ones with ev­ery­one’s agree­ment. Also, she says, don’t shy away from en­forc­ing the spe­cific rules of your own home. It’s okay to say, ‘In this house we don’t wear our shoes inside, even though at your Dad’s house you do.’ “Kids are fine with that. They un­der­stand there are dif­fer­ent rules in dif­fer­ent places, like school and youth club,” says Joy. “Re­mem­ber, you’ve come from two dif­fer­ent fam­i­lies with dif­fer­ent sets of rules, you need to make sure the right in­vest­ment is made with the kids.” Joy also notes that tran­si­tions from one par­ent’s house to an­other can be emo­tional hot spots, and chil­dren might need some quiet time, rather than be­ing thrown straight into a new fam­ily en­vi­ron­ment. “Lastly, don’t for­get to in­vest in the re­la­tion­ship with your new part­ner,” says Joy. “Kids know if their par­ents are okay, they’re okay and they can re­lax.”

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