Our resident expert on coaching for children, Naomi Richards, talks to us about blended families... It’s really hard when you have two families coming together with a mum, dad and children from previous marriages and there will always be issues and problems to solve initially and along the way.
I worked for as long time with a step-family who had four children, two children from each marriage. The children were all girls and close in age. It was not easy for any of them; hormones running wild and constant arguments about everything from borrowing shoes to taking a book out of another’s room. The two halves of the family had to take a step back and learn about the other siblings before they could move forward.
What do I mean by this?
Well, how did they live previously, were there any rules, what were they? How close were the sisters before? What do they need from their natural parent now – what have they always needed? Understanding the history of the family dynamics is important before getting stuck into a new family life. You need to know what was happening before.
In all cases the children need to a) understand the parenting style of the other parent, and b) learn about their new siblings. The parents need to agree on the same rules and parenting styles and explain what these are so the children are not confused about what they can and cannot do.
The children need to spend time with each other talking about what they like, dislike, enjoy doing in their spare time and their interests. They also need to communicate what kind of person they are – do they get up early in the morning, when are they happy/grumpy, what personal space do they need if any. With multiple children who are not used to living with each other under the same roof this kind of information is important. This could be a fun exercise. Why not get everyone to write down a profile of themselves mix them all up – each person takes one and then has to guess who it is. Another idea is to write down something you admire/like about each person in the family and say what is good about them – compliments from those we don’t expect it from make us feel great.
There will be resentment having to move from your home into someone else’s or into a new house with strangers really. Children don’t get a choice about where they live. You live with one parent and if that means moving in with their partner’s family then that is the way it is. Harsh I know.