The idea of having a family excites each one of us. But living in a culture-oriented country like Botswana can make it difficult for some people to try out new things.
We grew up believing in an extended and nuclear family setup as the “acceptable” family structure to raise children. But family-related changes have taken part in Botswana and other parts of the world. We’re now embracing a new family set up of a blended family, also known as a step family. And it’s working okay, even though there are some ups and downs as there are in nuclear families.
Would you believe that the first recorded blended families were in 1980 and 1985? For 36 years blended families have existed; they’re not something new. We need time and adaptation to know how to come together and build happy, stable families this way. And not let culture and societal expectations dictate to us what is “a perfect family setup”.
When families “blend”, things are rarely smooth. Children may resist changes, and parents can become frustrated when the new family doesn’t function the same as your previous one.
To give yourself the best chance of success in creating a blended family, it’s important to start planning how the new family will function. Do this before the relationship or marriage even takes place. Forming a new, blended family can be both a rewarding and a challenging experience. It needs people who are ready to embrace every challenge to build better families.
Before I get in too deep and personal about this matter here are a few tips and advice from experts on how to work it all out.
Blended Family Challenges
The founder and the mediator Ms. Charlene van Riet -Lowe of Mediation Mechanics talked to me about blended families. She said “there are a lot of contributing factors that often come off as challenges in blended families here in Botswana. Culture being one of the factors.”
She went on to say “because a lot of blended families come from different backgrounds, cultural difference is always a challenge. As people must adapt to certain cultures and their norms and value systems.”
She stated that there is a need for the definition of roles to children. This is to avoid confusion and resentment as they adapt to their new family set up.
Becoming part of a new family, especially a blended family is always a challenge. There are a lot of differences; discipline, lifestyle and parenting. These can create challenges in merging the two new families together and be a source of frustration on the children.
There can be difficulty in accepting a new parent. If children have spent a long time in a one-parent family, or still nurture hopes of reconciling their parents, it may be difficult for them to accept a new person.
Coping with demands of others can be challenging in blended families. Such as planning family events can get complicated. Especially when there are custody issues to consider. Children may also grow frustrated that vacations, parties, or weekend trips now have the inclusion of their new step siblings.
Changes in family traditions can also be challenging. Most families have very different ideas about how annual events such as holidays, birthdays, and family vacations should be spent. Kids may feel resentful if they’re forced to go along with someone else’s routine.
Parental insecurities are also tricky to navigate. A step-parent may be anxious about how they compare to a child’s natural parent. Or may grow resentful if the stepchildren compare them unfavorably to the natural parent.
How To Make Blended Families Work
Ms Charlene highlighted that communication is very important in making blended families work.
“People don’t talk anymore.. We have come to a point whereby we assume that the other person knows what they are thinking. Communication is vital because little irritating misunderstandings can be curbed,” she said.
For blended families to work there must be a solid relationship that has commitment, dedication and direction.
Active listening is also crucial for blended families. To work it needs to be exercised by both parties for a successful relationship.
Ms Charlene also stated that consultation is very important. To know the different needs of the children by asking them. Including them in the decision-making process. To allow their thoughts and opinions to be heard.
Tips For a Healthy Blended Family
Beware of favoritism. Be fair. Don’t overcompensate by favoring your stepchildren. This is a common mistake, made with best intentions to avoid indulging your biological children.
Find support, locate a step-parenting support organization in your community. You can learn how other blended families overcome challenges.
Insist on respect. As a parent you can’t insist that people like each other. However you can insist that they treat one another with respect. They may grow to like each other in the process.
I hope this post has given you some further insight into blended families. If you enjoyed this post please share it with your friends.