In most relationships we hear things like: “He is not on the same page as I am.” In fact, in my book He Said She Said I Said, 7 Keys to Relationship Success, one client said that he didn’t even feel that he and his wife were in the same game. Wow, can you imagine how communication can go awry like this? Good communication is not only important to a healthy marriage but even more important in a blended family where words can create or destroy delicate relationships.
We all know that a team is only as good as its players. Well, in a blended family, this concept is critical. After two families merge, the playing field is much more complicated and involves more players. Teamwork becomes essential. Here are three ideas that could help the communication flow better:
- A willingness to put in the effort. Plan time for teamwork. Set up meetings weekly or daily to check in with each other and see if your strategies are working. Take time to modify your plan if it isn’t bringing the desired results.
- Inviting the kids to have a voice in the team. They, too, are part of the team. If they are included in the conversation, the chance of success is better. Kids don’t like to be told what to do; but if an idea comes from them, they are more likely to see the value in following it. Be open to differing views of teamwork. Remember they had different family dynamics before and now are in a new environment. You could ask children what it was like in their former family. Information will always be useful. Let them know you are open to a new way. Ask for their help in forming new family rules for the team. Make sure the efforts of all the kids, biological children, and stepchildren, are considered equally. Be appreciative of their input, and take it under advisement for the next meeting. Whatever you do, be considerate of choosing input from each kid fairly. Stepchildren often feel second to the biological kids. Here is a chance to equalize the playing field.
- By all means, be your partner’s best friend. Friendship implies working together and finding value in each other’s opinions. Friends listen and provide feedback without judgment. You will undoubtedly have different views on parenting and setting limits. In stepfamilies, this difference of opinion can be challenging. Do your best to see a different way other than your own. Be willing to step out of what you always did and see what you can try that is new. Yes, doing so might be uncomfortable at first. But nothing different will ever happen if you both keep doing things the way you did in your previous marriages. Stepchildren will challenge you on a daily basis. It’s their job. Having a strong friendship as a couple will help you persevere.
In my book Blended Families Recipes for Success, I provide nine recipes to help families beat the odds of yet another failed marriage. A blended family can be a beautiful thing if you know how to navigate the issues that come up. Do your best to create a happy, harmonious family life, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Blending a family can be just as hard for the children as it is for the parents. Let patience, persistence, and love lead the way.