The wedding day has come and gone and hopefully also the honeymoon, if you were blessed to have one. Now What? You have brought your two families together and are all living under one roof. It is an exciting time, but it could be a very sad time for the kids. Their dream of seeing their parents reunite has been dashed by your marriage. And if you have not been included in your step kids lives much, you are virtually strangers now living under the same roof. You have big hopes and dreams for your new family. You are so in love with your spouse, you just know everything will work out great. You are enjoying the Dream Stage in the blending of your stepfamily. But soon, Reality sets in. What have we done? His child is so hard to be around and yours child is pushing the limits. The kids liked hanging out before the marriage but now it seems they can’t stand each other. And your spouse, doesn’t he see his child’s disrespect toward you and why doesn’t he do more about it? You asked his child to take out the trash and were told quite curtly that “You are not my mom, I don’t have to do what you say”.
Reality is in your face: stepfamilies just don’t work the same way as first families. So you either get angry or begin to Rally and learn how to walk out your new role and help your family members develop in their new roles. It means a lot of dying to yourself and what you want. Not that you should be disrespected in any way but the relationships that you thought would form quite readily, will take more work than you had anticipated. But that’s okay. And it’s worth it to see your family come to the place where “we all belong to each other”.
One tool you can use to help Rally your family is to begin having family meetings. This would be a family time where you set guidelines for communicating wants, needs and expectations. Husband and wife must be a unified team and direct these meetings together. Rules for how to communicate must be enforced. As we talked earlier on my blog and the Podcast concerning communication, Assertive Communication is both healthy and respectful so try adopting this as one of the rules for conversing. At the meetings, everyone gets a chance to get things off of their chest. But they must not attack; rather they must express what they think and feel about what is going on in the family. The parents may choose to begin the meetings and share first to set the tone and give an example of what is expected during this time.
If you have “meetings” regularly, which is a good idea, everyone will know they can bring their stuff to the table and get it out there. If it is done properly, these meetings will help keep resentments from building and misunderstandings from taking place. Having regular meetings, weekly or bi-weekly is highly recommended. And you don’t have to call them meetings, you could call them Family Night or Share and Care Night or you decide as a family what you’d like to call them.
Why Have Meetings?
This may be the first question that your kids ask when you inform them of the family meeting plan, so it’s best to be prepared with a few good responses. First, a family conference will provide the opportunity for the family to bond and it will strengthen the lines of communication between family members. These organized sessions can teach your kids the necessary skills for problem solving, communication and compromise. Family conflicts can be more effectively resolved through this process. Your children will be more likely to cooperate and abide by the rules of the house if they have a say in how things are run. And family meetings can help keep families coordinated in terms of schedules, chores, special events and holiday planning, making the entire household run a bit more smoothly. A lot of bonding can take place as well as the kids learning how to get along in the family; thus promoting them getting along better in life.
After everyone has had a chance to share in the family meeting, allow some time to have fun. Talk about future plans, have an ice cream together, play hide and go seek or house wrestle. This time is meant to draw you all closer and to allow for bonding to take place. Younger children will adapt more readily to the idea of family meetings than older kids. Teenagers are beginning to break away from the family so introducing a family meeting to them may not be met with enthusiasm. Being flexible with them will probably be necessary. Let them know, if they do need to miss a meeting with your permission, that you want to set up a time to talk with them beforehand. This will give you some one-on-one time with them and show them you are interested in sharing with them your thoughts and also hearing theirs.
Respect is the key in these meetings. Parents set the example: respect your kids and they will respect you. If a child feels disrespected, it’s very hard to respect their elder’s and that is what they are called to do.
Prov 16:3 says “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” So pray together before you start your meeting and commit it to the Lord.