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Blended Family & Step
Can't Seem to Get Along!"
Step Family Survival Tips
By Susie and Otto Collins
Karen and Paul were so happy to find one another.
Both thought that they would be single for the rest
of their lives after their first marriages (to other
Their second chance at passionate love and
companionship is marred by the constant bickering
and fights between their 5 children-- 2 from Paul's
first marriage and 3 from Karen's first marriage.
Their step family has tried family meetings, sticker
chart reward systems and plenty of groundings too as
an attempt to bring some peace into their home.
Nothing has really worked.
Some days it feels like a war zone in their own
home. This animosity between their kids has spilled
over and disturbed their close and connected
relationship which distresses both of them.
Karen and Paul sometimes question whether they've
made a mistake by bringing their kids together and
forcing them to be a family.
If you have a blended or step family, you might be
in a similar position to Karen and Paul.
You may wish your life resembled "The Brady Bunch,"
where the majority of the time everyone is content
and helps one another out.
Instead, it feels to you and your partner as if
you're living with the feuding Hatfields and McCoys!
When you feel such love for your husband or wife, it
can be frustrating-- to say the least-- when your
own kids can't seem to get along with your mate's
You might find yourself irritated with your kids,
your partner's kids, your partner and even yourself.
The reasons for the bickering and fights may be a
mystery to you or you may have an idea of the
specific dynamics that are fueling them.
Of course, both sets of children might have mixed,
or even negative, feelings about this new situation.
They may feel that they were left out of the
decision-making process for their own lives.
They might worry that this step-parent is trying to
take the place of their biological parent with whom
they spend less time. They could resent the
attention that the other kids get from you.
Any or all of these could be going on for your
children. It can be helpful for you to understand
where they are coming from.
While you probably can't magically fix it for your
kids, you can develop greater compassion for them
from a place of understanding.
In addition to gaining a deeper understanding of
what your kids are experiencing, there are other
steps you can take to initiate positive changes that
will make your home a more harmonious environment.
Don't take sides.
When Karen walks into a room to a major argument
between her kids and Paul's kids, she has a tendency
to side with Paul's kids. She doesn't mean to, it
just happens that way.
For you, it might be different. You may jump to
defend or problem-solve for your own kids when
All of this is natural. In the midst of conflict,
many of us feel compelled to step in and manage the
We encourage step-parents not to take sides when it
comes to struggles between their kids.
Of course, if some form of abuse or physical
violence is occurring, you will need to intervene
and separate those involved.
When we recommend that you not take sides, it
doesn't mean that you necessarily will be ignoring
the conflict either.
What it does mean is that you choose to intervene in
a way that will allow all involved to be heard. You
will stay as open and impartial as possible and,
essentially, be a mediator.
Don't take it personally if it seems to be "your"
kids who are the instigators of the arguments-- or
if instead they tend to be the "victims."
You can be of most help to everyone if you remember
to breathe and make sure that everyone gets to air
It can be powerful to repeat back and summarize what
a child or "side" has to say.
This can promote clarity about what the issue truly
Involve the kids in finding a solution by asking
them to brainstorm possible ways that everyone can
get their needs met.
Make time for connection.
Be sure that you are making time to connect in with
all members of your step family.
This means that you get away from both sets of kids
and have time for just you and your partner. This
could be time for romance and passion in a hotel or
cabin the woods or a cup of coffee in a quiet space.
By all means, regularly create some one-to-one time
with each of your kids.
Even if this is a simple 5 or 10 minute conversation
in which you are solely focused on what he or she
has to say, the effects are powerful.
You might find that you don't have to "make time"
Just be aware of possible moments to touch in with a
mix of family members gathered-- your own biological
kids and those of your mate.
Be present and appreciate those times of connection.
Knowing that you can have even moments of harmony
and peace can help you create even more.
If you'd like more tips for how to have a close and
passionate relationship, check out Susie and Otto
Collins' free report:
to a Great Relationship"