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Mom, dad, a couple of kids, and maybe a few pets. That’s what many people think of when the word family crosses their minds. But the family experience has since evolved because people are making different choices in their lives these days.
For example, the younger generation is prioritizing other things over marriage and starting a family. In other words, they’re marrying later in life, if at all. The lack of marriages among the younger generation is due partly to societal pressures, the rise of hookup culture, and being totally immersed in a digital world. But it’s also because they’re making different lifestyle choices like putting less strain on sex, opting for abstinence, and focusing on career goals over nurturing romantic relationships.
Ultimately, these different choices are leading to new family structures, specifically, the blended family unit. A blended family may have multiple parents, step-parents, children, step-children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relationships as part of its village. So, you can imagine the challenges that come with blending a family. Fortunately, there are many successful blended family units, and we can learn from the way they lead their households.
Here are three ways to navigate the blended family experience and keep everyone’s spiritual fullness at the forefront.
Spend Time as a Unit and Individually
One of the first things you’ll notice when bringing your families together is how challenging it is to get everyone to spend time together as a unit. And how difficult it can be to encourage everyone to nurture their individual relationships within the family.
It can be spiritually defeating when your family isn’t connecting as you’d hoped. And it can be draining trying to force those relationships to happen. But with consistency, open-mindedness, and patience, spending time as a unit and forming those personal relationships with each family member can happen.
So, schedule a family night once a week to ensure you’re intentional about creating a space for all of you to connect and build as a family. Also, create opportunities for your kids to come together and nurture their relationships with one another, for example, through participating in sports together or joining an after-school program. And finally, ensure you’re spending some one-on-one time with all of your children to learn more about them, like what they want to be when they grow up, their fears, and their interests.
Ultimately, be consistent in your efforts to get the family together and develop individual relationships. And remember that the connection you’re seeking will take time. Also, as you spend more time together, you’ll learn how vital conflict resolution is in navigating the blended family experience.
Have a Strategy for Resolving Conflict
Conflict and disagreement are normal in any family structure. But a blended family will have some unique challenges navigating differing beliefs, feelings, perspectives, and experiences. For instance, some of the kids in your household may have difficulty sharing their space with their new step-siblings. And that can lead to disagreements among them about everything from bathroom time to dinner choices to sharing tech devices. Or, you and your spouse may have issues agreeing on how to discipline the children, or the hurdles present so far in the marriage.
Without a strategy for resolving conflict, the communication and connection in your household will suffer. And your home just won’t be conducive for individual and family growth.
So, study how to resolve conflict assertively. Then, educate your children on the five steps of assertive conflict resolution. Ensure that everyone is on the same page about how you will resolve conflict as a family. And create an environment that welcomes healthy disagreements and learning from those conflicts to strengthen your relationships.
Additionally, navigating the blended family experience is highly dependent on how mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy you, your spouse, and your children are.
Support Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Health
How can you best support the mental and spiritual health of everyone in the family? This question should be posted on the wall somewhere in your home. Or at least in your mind as you navigate the blended family experience. Not securing each person’s mental, emotional, and spiritual health only makes blending your families that much more difficult.
Bringing two family dynamics together can be extremely tough on your children, let alone you and your partner. From learning to share your space to navigating added financial responsibilities to inspiring closeness and connection, it can all be so mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining for everyone involved. So, ensuring everyone’s well being is a priority is crucial.
The best way to encourage everyone to prioritize their mental, emotional, and spiritual health is to lead by example. For instance, going to marriage counseling or seeking advice from a couple’s therapist to learn how to repair the brokenness in your relationship, implement communication tools, or simply learn all you can learn about marriage culture.
Presenting a united front for your children and displaying healthy relationship behaviors makes it easier for them to behave and positively conduct themselves. Going to therapy also shows your children there’s nothing wrong with enlisting the help of others to become better people. It normalizes addressing mental health issues and practicing self-love and care.
All in all, modeling a healthy marriage, strong moral values, and positive lifestyle choices for your children will help them respect and appreciate themselves and each other. And respect and appreciation are critical to a solid blended family foundation.
Spiritually navigating the blended family experience is such a wholesome experience. Ensure your blended family is the best it can be by spending time together as a unit and individually, creating a strategy for resolving conflict, and supporting the mental, emotional, and physical health of everyone.