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Dec 13, 2011

Blended Families: "Tips I wish I had known earlier!"

Something that is not well addressed in a many marriage and family classes, is the concept of step families, or blended families. Because of their nature of establishing "new boundaries" and readjusting many old family boundaries... making blended families work is NOT a walk in the park, but it is possible and can be very rewarding. My instructor is a member of a blended family, and here are some priceless tips that he wished he had known when he first got married. He mentioned it would have been a lot easier to parent and be a husband if he had known these things before.

#2- Remember it is easy to play the "cool parent" when we think that our spouses style of parenting is too strict and we intervene in front of the child. To intervene in front of the child is not wise. Take time before or after the encounter to discuss discipline so you are not surprised in the moment, and agree on what is permissible. Of course there are circumstances when you should intervene right then. If you can, gently ask your spouse aside so you may speak with them in private to remedy the problem.

#1- Discipline should be left up to the original parent of the children until trust and love has had time to be established. The children need time to establish a loving relationship with their new parent, so they can still trust and love them later when it is time for the new parent to be fully engaged in discipline. Otherwise, all the children will see is "no love and all discipline and restriction" They will become extremely defiant. The average time it takes to establish this love and trust relationship is about 2 years, so be patient. It may take more time for teenagers.

#3- Remember that as you are establishing your new boundaries as a family there are tons of extenuating associations to be aware, and sometimes wary of. There are the old spouses, the old mother-in-laws, and all the old family from previous marriages, and then there is a whole set of new family to get used to. Everyone has their opinions about the blending of the family too. If the messages that you are getting from your old extended family, or even new ones are hurting your new family, you may have to distance or even separate your family unit from them for a time. It is hard enough trying to establish this new unit by itself, but it can be disastrous if ill meaning extended family intervene or poison the children against a spouse. I have personally seen tragedy occur on this topic.

For more EXCELLENT information on Parenting in blended and non blended families look for these suggestions by my instructor, who has successfully counseled families for 20+ years:

Parenting with Love: Making a difference in a day by Glenn I. Latham is a short but very informative book for dealing with problem behaviors without accidently reinforcing the very behaviors we are seeking to improve. This is a particularly useful book for parents and grandparents of young children.
What a Parent to Do? Solving Family Problems in a Christlike Way by Glenn I. Latham is focused more on the specific challenges parents face when they perceive their teen or young adult children are veering away from the standards parents hold dear. This book challenges the parent to carefully examine and regulate his/her own behavior in a manner that will likely help to avoid many of the secondary problems of driving young people away in an attempt to correct their mistaken behavior. This book utilizes several effective references from LDS sources. Another version of the same book uses biblical references and forgoes the LDS specific quotes: Christlike Parenting. I prefer the former version, though the latter is still in print.
Each of these books are available for purchase online at Parenting with Love is available both as a download or in print; What's a Parent to Do? is currently available from the publishing online in as a PDF. But the book is still available used via or other online retailers. Christlike Parenting is available online, but also via other book retailers in print form.
Active Parenting of Teens (Parent's Guide), Third Edition, is the source for much of the information we used in class this week. His work for blended families is titled Active Parenting for Stepfamilies, and is very helpful as well. Dr. Popkins resources are available via

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