Resolving Conflicts in a Mixed Family
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According to The Step Family Foundation (2015), approximately 1300 new step-families are formed every day. And, approximately 50% of American families include step-parents or non-biological partners.
Are you in a blended family? And, are you in the midst of a family conflict? If the answers are “yes,” then there is help for you and your family. Truth-be-told, it can be quite taxing to enter into a new family, especially when it already has established traditions and practices in place. Blending two individual families can be tricky, to say the least. Why? Well, because two families are coming together – two families, who have different mindsets, personalities, past experiences, parenting styles, preferences, and/or dislikes. This is especially true for children, who are sensitive to changes. If you are entering a new family with your own children, it is imperative that you get to know each and every member of the family you are entering.
It is also important that you establish an individual relationship with each family member, if you want to resolve conflicts within your blended family. The keys to successfully resolving issues in a blended family include: respect, compromise, communication, empathy, and understanding. When the lines of communication are closed or unclear, it can lead to a tense living environment that breeds conflicts. Don’t allow the conflicts in your blended family to destroy your happy home; rather follow the tips listed in this article. This article will teach you how to resolve conflicts in a blended family.
Listed below are ways that you can resolve conflicts in a blended family:
A great way to resolve conflicts in a blended family is to be realistic. In other words, set practical expectations, and do not be judgmental and/or pushy towards the other family members. Note: Children in blended families typically adjust with space and time. Don’t expect an overabundance of love, respect, and acceptance immediately – even if you put in a lot of effort to be close to your new family members. Rather, allow each family member to draw closer to you in his or her own time. Do not push or it will backfire on you.
If you want to resolve blended family conflicts – be patient. This is especially true when it comes to children. If you have a conflict with a child, do not become frustrated or angry at him or her, if he or she is mistrustful towards you. Note: Children, who have been through a divorce, may be very distrustful of the adult figures in their lives. Give each family member time to adjust to the new reality, and patiently wait until they approach you.
Be Open & Honest
To resolve conflicts in a blended family, you will need to be open and honest at all times. Do not pretend to be someone you are not simply to gain favor with your new family members, because it will only backfire on you. In other words, family members will feel betrayed and lie to, which will only push them farther away from you. If you don’t know the answer to a question, tell the family member you do not know, but maybe you can work together to find the answer. Also, allow your new family members to voice their opinions, without interruption.
If a family member wants to share his or her thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and/or opinions with you – listen, and offer feedback, if asked. Note: Children need to feel “heard” in a family, especially a blended one. They need to know that you are listening and paying attention to them. They also need to feel respected and valued. By keeping the lines of communication open, you may prevent a child from “acting out” out of fear, loneliness, feelings of neglect, sadness, anger, and/or frustration.
Define Family Roles
During the early stages in a blended family, it is important to define family roles. Confusion over where each family member “fits in” within the new family dynamics can cause family conflicts. Avoid these conflicts by introducing yourself as a friend, guide, or mentor, instead of as a parent, enforcer, or disciplinarian. Why? Well, because if you approach your new role as an authoritarian, family members, especially children, will grow to resent you, which will trigger or worsen family conflicts.
Develop Family Rules
You can resolve blended family conflicts by developing family rules – together. In other words, sit down together, and establish appropriate family conduct. Include suggestions from all family members. Once you have documented all of the family rules and guidelines on a chalkboard or poster board, post it in a central location (i.e. kitchen or living room), so that everyone can see them. Why should you develop family rules? Well, to avoid miscommunication, and/or accusations of special treatment. If you have a list of family rules posted, it is harder to bend them.
Share Your Concerns with Your Spouse in Private
One of the best ways to resolve conflicts in a blended family is to share your concerns with your spouse in private. In other words, do not hash out disagreements and/or issues in front of other family members (especially children). Agree to disagree in private, away from your children. Note: Children need to think that they belong to a cohesive, united, and loving family. If they feel that they are in a positive environment, they will most likely behave positively. It is important to understand that children observe and mimic their parents’ behaviors, so if you want your step-child to resolve conflicts in a healthy way, you will need to model those behaviors in front of him or her.
- Dr. R. Y. Langham
Kemp, G., Segal, J. & Robinson, L. (2015). Step-parenting and blended families. Help Guide. Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/articles/family-divorce/step-parenting-blended-families.htm
Parents. (2015). Blended families. Retrieved from http://www.parents.com/parenting/divorce/blended-families/
The Step Family Foundation. (2015). Stepfamily statistics. Retrieved from http://www.stepfamily.org/stepfamily-statistics.html