The modern age has brought about an unprecedented blending of families. Whether due to remarriage, adoption, or unique family formations, these works-in-progress require an extraordinary level of focus and effort to manage conflicts. Every circumstance is different, but here are some general strategies to apply when trying to work through issues.
First and foremost, parents need to create a unified front, affirming a consistent set of values and expectations for their household. Parents should strive to accept each other’s parenting styles and perspectives while also maintaining their own distinct roles. Family meetings can be a wonderful opportunity to check-in on individual needs and goals and also set clear, attainable objectives as a unit. It’s also important to share in the accomplishments of the family together and find joy in each other’s successes.
Good communication within the blended family is essential. Each family member should feel heard and respected, no matter how difficult discussions may become. While listening and empathy are both invaluable, so is establishing ground rules for how to disagree with respect. Even if a certain conversation does not immediately result in resolving a conflict, it can still benefit everyone involved.
It is easy for one or two family members to take on the “favorite child” role, forming disproportionate alliances. As such, activities should be equally planned to engage everyone. it is natural for individuals to gravitate towards certain people; however, parents should recognize that this can create feelings of abandonment in other family members. The key is preserving balance and fairness at all times.
When blended family dynamics get particularly strained, it can be a challenge to remain positive and forget resentments. To escape the cycle of negativity, it is in everyone's best interest to make time alone to recharge. Taking5 breaks during an argument can be beneficial and having scheduled one-on-one time with each person can help to affirm individual needs.
Conflict management is a lifelong process that requires patience and perseverance. With a commitment to mutual understanding, respect, dignity, and communication, any family can become open to understanding and accepting different ways of thinking. More than anything, openness is necessary for learning and healing.
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