American families have changed dramatically over the last generation. Single parent families and blended families have become almost as common as the traditional Nuclear family. a blended family is a combination of family members from more than one family. A blended family may include biological parents, step parents, grandparents or other relatives, biological children, stepchildren, half siblings and non-related family members.
Since many blended families come about as a result of a past loss such as a death or divorce, it may be difficult for family members to adjust to a new family. Children may feel angry, hurt and confused when faced with a new parent, step brothers or sisters and new expectations and rules. Behavior problems such as aggression, defiance and withdrawal are common for up to a year or more. Discipline can become a major problem. Following are some suggestions to help blended families adjust and establish discipline.
- Remember that blended families are very different from traditional nuclear families. Creating a blended family is a long, gradual process, involving many changes and adjustments. Accept feelings of loss, anger hurt as normal reactions to change. Give family members time and space to adjust.
- Use good basic parenting skills - set reasonable rules and consequences, make sure children understand the rules, what is expected, and reasons for the rules, and follow through consistently with consequences.
- Discuss and agree on expectations with your partner. Present a "united front" to children and work together to support and reinforce each other.
- Have a family meeting to involve children as much as possible in setting rules, and consequences, and to discuss issues such as chores, schedules and planned activities. Putting rules and expectations in writing may help avoid arguments later.
- Don't insist on one "right" way to discipline. Be flexible and willing to try new things.
- Let children know that their feelings and opinions are important. Respect differences.
- Don't expect instant "respect" or love. Good relationships take time to develop.
- Don't try to replace the original parent. Be an additional parent rather than a replacement. Whenever possible, allow your partner to discipline his or her own children. This allows children to gradually adjustment to a new authority figure and reduces the "you're not my REAL parent" problem.
- If children visit other parents, such as the biological parent no longer living in the family, explain that the rules may be different in other households and the child is expected to follow your family rules when in your household.
- Don't put children in the middle of interactions with other parents. Resist the urge to make negative comments about other parents or authority figures in front of children.
- Don't discipline when angry. Take a "time out" and cool down first.
- Don't take children's behavior personally. Help them find acceptable ways to meet their needs.
For more information, questions or comments, call the Trinity Child and Adolescent Program at (515) 574-6596.
This article was written by Pam Lehman, a counselor with the Trinity Recovery Center at Trinity Regional Hospital. Pam has a Master of Science degree in counseling.
Reprinted with the permission of the Community Action Network. © Community Action Network, All Rights Reserved.
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