Every day 1,300 new blended families are created in the United States. That means blended families are the new majority as divorce affects more and more marriages. Blended or “step-families” present new challenges for parents, stepparents, and children, but also offer new opportunities for growth and joy.
The National Family Resiliency Center offers some tips for how to maximize the joy:
1. Identify Shared Values
Work together to identify the core values of your family. They should be clear and actionable. For example:
- We are honest.
- We treat one another with respect.
- We listen to each other.
These values should be consistent throughout the blended family households and should be reinforced by the relationships between the adults.
2. Practice Empathy
Empathy — understanding and respecting the experiences of others — has been found to reduce stress and increase relationship satisfaction. This isn’t unique to romantic relationships — practicing empathetic listening can help adults co-parent better and will improve relationships between children and their parents and step-parents.
3. Be Mindful of Negative Communication Habits
The negative communication habits that John Gottman identified as precursors to relationships failure can also harm co-parenting relationships. Being mindful of tendencies to criticize, show contempt, act defensive, or ignore others can help keep communication respectful and productive between all members of the family.
4. Make Gratitude A Habit
Raising a family is stressful and it can be easy to get bogged down by the challenges a blended family presents. Researchers Randy and Lori Sanstone found that daily gratitude habits increase overall sense of well-being and optimism. Establishing a family gratitude practice can help everyone feel more positive and appreciative of their unique family.
By highlighting the parts of our family that are special because they're different, you and your partner can change the way you and your family move forward. By loving each other, being grateful of each other, being mindful of how you communicate, and by setting family goals - you can create a space to form deeper connections and stronger bonds for every member of your family.