The blended family (Week 4)

April 30, 2020

Merriam-Webster defines “step-family” as a family in which there is a step-parent, a mother or father who is a step-mother or step-father. This week’s article will address 7 challenges to creating family as well as share the 5 communication strengths in healthy families.

The National Step-family Resource Center published an article titled: Quick Steps: Information to Help Your Step-family Thrive.1 The focus was on communication in step-families. The article is based on research by Dr. Tamara Golish, a Pennsylvania State University researcher who actually became curious as to how people in step-families communicate with each other. Dr. Golish found that of the step-families she studied, most faced one or more of these 7 challenges:

7 challenges to creating family:

• Feeling caught between relationships: children caught between parents; parents and step-parents feeling pulled between two opposing forces.
• Managing boundaries with the children’s other family.
• Unclear parental roles.
• Traumatic bonding— when a parent and child (especially mother and daughter) form a very close bond after the divorce.
• Competition for resources like money, privacy, and territory.
• Different styles of conflict resolution.
• Building unity as a family.

5 communication strengths in healthy families:

Family researchers have learned that strong, well-functioning, families use a variety of communication tools and actions to build connections with one another.

Healthy families:

• Listen to each other
• Directly, but positively address conflict
• Openly share information
• Participate in activities together
• Nurture relationships by showing affection; attending children’s activities; establishing family rituals and standards; engaging in everyday talk, using humor; and paying attention to the words they use with each other.

More communication strengths of healthy step-families:

In addition to the 5 communication strengths listed above, healthy step-families, according to the National Step-family’s article, share these characteristics:

• Most parents in strong step-families are able to maintain a cordial relationship with their former spouse. This contributes to positive communication between children and their parents.
• In well-functioning step-families, the remarried couple models healthy communication and commitment to their marriage for their children.
• Strong step-families often use compromise to resolve problems.

Source: 1The National Stepfamily Resource Center, Auburn University, “Quick Steps Information to Help Your Stepfamily Thrive.”

Next Week: Conclusion – Co-Parenting Do’s and Don’ts

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