September 18

Making the Rules in a Blended Family


Don't you wish blended families worked as seamlessly as they seem to work on TV? The new spouse and their kids all move in and everyone just seems to know what to do. Well, life isn't a TV program. In real life, for things to work, you have to lay down the law. Then you have to enforce it. For parents/bonus parents who share time with children/bonus children, here are some tips for making and enforcing the rules of your new blended family.

1. Set the Ground Rules

You must get together with your spouse and come up with rules that both of you can live with. Agree on the basics to start, things like what is expected of each child around the house, bedtimes, and routines. Keep it simple. Try laying out something like this...

* Treat everyone in the house with respect
* Listen to parents (this includes step parents)
* Pick up after yourself
* Open lines of communication
* Try your best

2. Call a Family Meeting

Once you get everything planned out with your spouse, sit down and share these expectations with the children. Call a family meeting and maintain order by having a talking stick, where only the person holding the item can speak. This makes it so there's no shouting over one another.

If the children pose questions that you have not discussed with your spouse and you don't seem to be on the same page, don't hash it out in front of the children. Let them know you'll come back to that after discussing it further in private. This way, the children are not influencing or putting a wedge between the two parents. Plus, they will see that you are committed to being a unit and all decisions must go through the two of you.

3. Set Consequences

Create consequences for breaking the rules, and stick to them. They should be shared in the family meeting so everyone not only knows what's expected of them, but also what the consequences will be if they break the rules.

Consequences might look different for each family and each child. Taking away the TV from a child who isn't that interested in watching TV isn't going to be productive. Give the children a list of possible consequences.  Be sure the consequence is made clear and will fit the "crime."

4. Be Prepared

Understand that this likely isn't going to be met with open arms, especially with older children. You might hear, “You're not my real parent!” a lot. Being ready to respond to that will help. Don't make it a power struggle. One quick statement about how that makes you feel will get the job done.  Leaving it at that, and talking to your spouse when you can, is the best way to handle the backlash. Your spouse will need to express to the children that they expect you to be treated with respect.

All in all, when it comes to setting rules in the family it's important to spell everything out and keep open lines of communication. Be flexible, but firm. Maintain a united front with your spouse at all times. You just might be able to have the Brady Bunch family after all. Check out our free e-book for stepparents and bonus families, right here.


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