From smoothing conflict between stepsiblings to how to settle your stepparenting issues, learn how to help encourage harmony when it comes to blended families at war.
While a little sibling rivalry is expected between brothers and sisters, bickering amongst stepsiblings needs a little extra TLC. "It's important to step in when tempers are getting out of control and family members' anger is disrupting family activity," advises Dr. Jane Greer, marriage and family therapist. When things become heated with your kids and his, encourage each child to spend time on their own and to respect each kids' personal space and possessions. While you shouldn't coddle them, forcing children to get along as a new family unit quickly may foster resentment, so tread lightly.
Even in the happiest of blended family homes, some children may take longer to transition into the new family unit, especially when it comes to accepting a new parent in their lives. When you find your child holding a grudge against your spouse or sense your stepchildren keeping an emotional distance from you, encourage them to talk about their feelings in private — it may have more to do with the situation and less to do with you or your hubby. While you cannot force a bond, finding some mutual interest that encourages bonding may ultimately break down the walls your kiddos have built.
Unfortunately, the ill feelings can go both ways. When stepkids are acting out, talking back and being blatantly disrespectful to the new parent in their life, you or your partner may be less than likely to form an emotional bond at first. You may be surprised to learn that the key to smoothing stormy waters between stepparents and stepchildren is to lower expectations of the relationship and have patience; the bond between parent and child may never be perfect, but it doesn't have to be turbulent over time.
Your relationship may have started out with hearts and flowers, but throwing kids into the mix can create a lot more stepfamily problems than you and your partner may ever have anticipated. And, the unfortunate truth is that how well parents get along will greatly influence how the children cope with many blended family issues like bonding and discipline. When you find yourself butting heads after merging households, seek the help of a family therapist specializing in blended families and work on maintaining mutual support between you and your husband to increase your chances of survival as a stepfamily.
Although every family has its ups and downs, even blended families at war can find peace amongst family members. "Stepfamilies are by far the most difficult systems to navigate when it comes to conflict, but not impossible," according to Tricia Ferrara, licensed professional counselor and behavioral health specialist in Chester Springs, PA. "The best cure [for blended family issues] is prevention. Define boundaries and expectations regarding your role among family members early on, so you know when your opinion will or will not be welcomed." With a little proactivity combined with a whole lot a patience, your family will be less defined by your stepfamily problems and more identified by the bonds you all form in time.
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