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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Kids In Blended Families: Honor the Old, Nurture the New

When I consider the unique needs of children raised in blended families, one thing that stands out are the variety of relationships that unfold in unique ways.  Within our one family unit, we have three different parenting schedules at play.  Change is the standard way of life, so it magnifies each child's desire for consistency.  Honoring the original bonds is a key way to provide steady, consistent security for children from tots to teens, and even through adulthood.

Sometimes, I crave unstructured time with the three little souls that began their lives with me.  We know each other better than anyone and we share a wealth of history.  We each value the time we share with just us, honoring the ties that began before our family blended.  My husband and step daughters thank me over and over when I encourage them to go out on a "date" with just the three of them.

In the same way, continue the traditions and rituals that you began before your families blended.  Some of these may be adopted by everyone, others may remain your own private personal privilege.  Nighttime prayers, Sunday morning coffee, favorite restaurants, custom artwork drawn in toddlerhood and proudly displayed can all be incorporated into the blended home to honor and value to the original bonds.

However, a sure signal that things are progressing well in your blended family is watching some of those original traditions be shared with new siblings and parents.  When your daughter wants to watch her favorite movie with her step sister, she is seeking a joint connection.  When your son wants to go alone with his stepdad to a much-anticipated movie premier, he is blazing his own trail of firsts with someone now close to him.

Initiate new traditions that bridge the two families.  Some things that work for us are birthday dinners, regular hikes to the mountains and a yearly vacation together.  Even with all the schedule conflicts and possible stress of our large group, we make the effort to spend time together.  We always gain a sweet return on the investment of time.

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