The ABC's for Blended Families


by Maxine Marsolini

Living with step relationships isn't as easy as it sounds. Statistics tell us that blended children are at greater risk of living in high conflict homes where sixty percent of them will once again fall apart. Most of us have made a New Year's resolution at least once or twice in our lives. We've been taught to believe we can change habits by walking into a new year with a new goal. In the past, I've resolved to exercise, eat more salads, and attend church. These activities are now a part of my life.

I'd like to challenge you to a 2005 resolution—to put The ABC's for Blended Families into practice. Don't expect to do them all in a week's time. Be diligent. The whole year lies ahead of you.

A Accept Your Family
Make each person feel he or she is a very important part of the new family. Avoid favoritism of one child over another.

B Build with Love
Mother Teresa said, "I have come more and more to realize that it is being unwanted that is the worst disease that any human being can ever experience. For all kinds of diseases there are medicines and cures. But for being unwanted, except there are willing hands to serve and there's a loving heart to love, I don't think this terrible disease can be cured."

C Calculate Financial Needs
Talk about money. Money habits can make or break a marriage. Be prompt with spousal/child support payments. Decide who will manage the checkbook or if two checkbooks will be kept. Talk about allowance money, a reasonable household budget, and a will that is caring and inclusive.

D Develop Personal Space
Children in stepfamilies, whether living with you day-to-day or only once in a while, need to be treated like family and not visitors. Personal space says, "I belong here." Provide at the very least a private dresser drawer or cupboard shelf.

E Encourage Family Fun
Keep fun on the calendar. Fun relieves stress and gets everyone smiling. Toss a Frisbee, go to the beach, hike a trail, or plan a picnic. Do things that have nothing to do with work.

F Forgive Past Hurts
A blended family builds on the prior family's broken dreams. Often people are emotionally entangled with the past. Until you choose to forgive, and let your bitterness go your new family does not have all of you.

G Grow Good Attitudes
Attitudes are self chosen. Grow in love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

H Honor Each History
Look at the ethnic diversity within your family. Celebrate something from each person's heritage (i.e. food, song, fiesta).

I Initiate Family Meetings
Family meetings keep every one abreast of family matters. Events, financial needs, chores, or venting a frustration can be aired here. Make sure all family members are allowed to voice their concerns.

K Knit Lives Together
Shared experiences make us feel more a part of one another. Even if you don't like sports, do your best to create family time out of the ball games, the band concerts, and the awards assemblies that gratify another family member.

J Junk the Jealousy
Jealousy is self focused and demonstrates a lack of maturity. Find a better way to express your emotions.

L Laugh a Lot
Laughter is good medicine and keeps us from taking life too seriously. Read funny stories, tell clean jokes, or rent an amusing video. Never use laughter to poke fun at someone.

M Maintain Wholesome Values
The moral fiber of society is based on godly principles. Model telling the truth, keeping your word, and not using coarse language before you expect your children to put these things into practice.

N Normalize Appropriate Discipline
The birth parent should be the primary disciplinarian of his or her child at first. In time, and in unity with the stepparent, slowly bring consistency to disciplinary standards that will be upheld with all of the children.

O Oust Unhealthy Habits
Be honest with yourself. Is there a habit (alcohol abuse, drugs, anger, over spending, or name calling) you need to get rid of? Make a plan to clean up the problem.

P Pray for Guidance
The medical community agrees with the Christian sector. Prayer helps! Take your problems to prayer. Pray as a family. Pray with a friend.

Q Quantify Every Victory
Celebrate the smallest successes as well as the big ones. A child who shares with a stepsister should be praised for his loving gesture. A teen that lands a summer job should be admired.

R Respect Satellite Relationships
Show respect for your child's relatives. Do not talk negatively about them. Your child gathers feelings of worth by how well you accept his or her closest relatives.

S Strive for Stability
Dinner is at 6:00, everyone does chores, and curfew is at 9:00. We all need a degree of consistency for life to feel orderly.

T Think before Speaking
Once words leave our mouths it is impossible to drag them back. Be quick to listen and slow to speak.

U Undertake Peaceful Negotiations
Disputes are inevitable. Train your children with great problem solving skills before they leave home at age 18.

V Validate Each Person
Self worth is important to our well being. Find something each day that is worth validating in each person—a smile, a hug, a helping hand.

W Ward off Criticism
Critical words can crush the heart of a child or a spouse. Pleasant words are like honey to the soul. Learn to speak the truth in love.

X eXtend Grace Often
The Golden Rule is grace in action. It says, "Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you."

Y Yield to Others
Don't insist on having your own way. Look out for the interests of others.

Z Zoom toward Goals
Goals let us live with purpose. Plan to save for college, take a vacation, or create harmony with one another. Then put aside the money or time to meet your goals.

Consider posting this alphabet where the whole family can routinely see it: on the refrigerator or a bathroom mirror, or frame it and hang it in each bedroom of the house.

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