Thursday, September 12, 2013

Know Your Place in a Blended Family and Supporting Your Partner...Who said it would be easy?

Being a helpmate to a partner with children is no easy task, especially when it comes to discipline and normal everyday living.  Developing a strategy early on, for blended families is easier said than done. According to Marjorie Engel, PhD, and President of Stepfamily Association of America, children's biological parents should take responsibility for enforcing house rules and the stepparent, helpmate or partner acting as deputy to ensure consistency in the home and reduce tension between the adults living under the same roof.

Experts agree that developing a routine for children to follow, such as how much time spent on TV, computer, cell phone or other electronic devices, a time when homework should be completed, bath time, dinner and bedtime schedule, show that children learn to trust and become more productive when they receive effective and consistent discipline in routine. The system fails when parents are not able to follow through with the structured routine, causing the children to sense a gain of power to not follow the rules, including rules outside the home.

The most important relationship in any stepfamily is between the adults or partners. Showing the children that you are a team and support each other will strengthen the adult relationship and allow the children to see you as a strong team who care about their well-being.  The parent, stepparent or partner should schedule time  to discuss two problem areas to focus on monthly as well as consequences for children who fail to adhere to family rules.  Decide on a solution and inform the children as a supportive team.  Together you work through the challenges, teaching the children to work as a team is critical to their development and will allow them to begin feeling empowered as they successfully achieve success when completing a task that was on the "problem list".  Consequences must be followed through for failing to follow family house rules.  

Children have so much to deal with after a family separation. The separation of the family structure is the most challenging task for them.  Not only do they have to divide their time between two households, their schedules are different, parenting styles are different and the children may appear as though nothing is wrong.  All the more reason to maintain some sense of structure so they feel secure and know when they get to your home, the routine is sound. This creates a protective barrier for children that allows them to know they are safe and have responsibilities to follow through on. 

When you have achieved this challenge, know that you will make mistakes, you will learn from them as you go but you will become a better parent and your reward is a happier family.
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