Summer is a saucy schedule-less mess of chaos, fun, and boredom (per the kiddos) and is a hotbed for emotions. When the kids are around it’s a free-for-all of family life and that makes it hard to be objective about how everyone is relating. Back to school is reflection time. And in order to reflect effectively you’ve got to have the guts to be honest (at the very least) with yourself about your emotions and what you sense about the emotions of other family members. Back-to-school is an opportunity to get back-to-basics.
What are the basics? They’re different for each blended family as they revolve around family values and behavior norms. This is where blended families can get tripped up because part of the blending isn’t “becoming one” but becoming inclusive of more family members and building a tolerance for the unfamiliar values and behaviors. It will take a lot of self-reflection about personal behaviors or choices that didn’t work out too well, and acknowledging challenging feelings. And reflection about summer interactions: what was good, what was bad?
For blended families (and all relationships) I feel each person should be able to expect some basic ways of being treated. The anonymity of the cyber-world and indirect communication makes it easy to be rude when you’re not face-to-face with another person. However, being part of a blended family comes with a lot of “forced together time,” even if it’s just eating dinner with step-siblings or step-parents, so it’s critical to understand what behavior defines a “healthy normal” way of being treated in a relationship versus the normal you may be used to. My list is adapted from one of my favorite relationship websites that sits smack in the middle of “middle-American” values: University of Minnesota.
Basic Relationship Rights within your Blended Family:
- The right to be treated with respect.
- The right to live free from angry outbursts and rage.
- The right to be called by no name that devalues you.
- The right to be respectfully asked rather than ordered (this is a big one for kids getting used to a new authority figure in the house).
- Goodwill from the other family members.
- The right to emotional support.
- The right to be validated ( to have our feelings and experience acknowledged as real).
- The right to receive a sincere apology (easier said than done, right? And the concession of taking responsibility for hurting someone else’s feelings or making a bad choice can move a relationship forward in a healthy way).
- To be heard by the other family members and be responded to with courtesy. (Stop the snide remarks and negative talk about family members, it does nothing to help expect feed the ego of the person doing the talking).
- The right to clear and informative answers to questions that concern what is legitimately your business. (Yes, it is your stepparents business where you are after school and only telling part of the truth is still lying).
- The right to live free from accusation and blame.
- The right to live free from criticism and judgment. Kindness is not weakness.
- The right to have your work and your interests respected.
- The right to encouragement.
- The right to live free from emotional and physical threat.
- The right to protect personal physical and emotional health.
- The right to express your own beliefs, feelings, opinions, convictions, values and traditions. (Sounds like social justice and ***inclusivity to me!)
Expecting these things from your blended family aids in the basic goal of a blended family: Everyone feeling comfortable in their own home. At home, family members should feel included and be treated with respect and kindness, along with being able to get thier (reasonable) needs met. (Notice I did not say the objective was to get everyone to love each other like a bio-family and function a la Brady Bunch a become the step-family picture of perfection.) Blended family happiness can only grow out of the previous objectives: respect, kindness and having personal needs being met; basically speaking, reflect on that.