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Tackling the challenges of the blended family

Jun 22, 2012, 7:55 a.m.

Blended families need not always complicate living, but at times the associated frustrations even outweigh the joy of multiple grandkids. Divorce or separation often begins with a custody battle that rivals national conflicts. Grandparents usually end up in the middle of a war they cannot win. At times, they must even stand against the flesh and blood children from their own loins.

When the divorce finally settles, a new struggle may break forth: The child of their loins gets remarried. The grandchildren are reclaimed. A new mate changes the game rules, perhaps even brings in a passel of new grandkids. Learning to cope with step families introduces a whole new level of frustration and confusion.

Challenges Associated With Blended Families

In this "modern age," step families abound. The US Bureau of Census relates that over 50 percent of US families are now blended families. Every day, more than 1,300 new step families are formed. From birthdays to holidays, how do these blended families fit into the concept of traditional marriage?

Discipline

When dealing with grandchildren that are linked via a blended family, discipline may be the number one challenge a grandparent faces. Furthermore, the disciplinary measures of the child's parents may not even mesh one to the other, much less with those of a third party. So how do grandparents discipline step grandchildren?

The discipline of step grandchildren must be marked by:

Careful communication with the biological parent of the child

Followed up with careful observation of the biological parent's response to the discipline

Approached with love, kindness and planned, pre-discussed methods.

Remember: This boat capsizes easily.

Scheduling

Even in traditional families, one side or the other often strives for dominance of important dates. When dealing with step families, the complications accumulate. The family now includes four sets of grandparents with each struggling for primary birthday and holiday hours. Someone always loses out, but the grandparents who practice the following social skills will win in the end:

Make no demands

Apply grace to all activities

Love without reservations

Be patient.

Space

For grandparents, the issues associated with home space may not generate big problems. But what happens on a group vacation? Who gets the best accommodations? Who determines the sleeping arrangements? Consider the following key points:

If the parents join the journey, they are in control of the children

Almost all children create some form of territorial rules

In close quarters, stepbrothers and stepsisters tend to stress out

Use common sense when establishing sleeping orders and boundaries

Plan and then plan some more.

Birthdays and holidays

These battlegrounds always exist. Get through them by remembering these points:

Always be fair

Share the hours with those "other people"

Give to get

Listen to the parents

Hear the unspoken words

Expect to miss some of the opportunities.

Overcome the challenges

Every step family must face growth challenges, but a good attitude makes everything flow more smoothly. It begins like this:

Do away with the concept of me, mine and I want

Always act in a manner that best serves the common good of the blended group

Remember that the individual parents are also struggling to knit this step family into a functional and loving family unit

Be patient

Think fun

Be instant to help

Develop thick skin and a gentle heart.

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