Counseling minimizes adjustments in blending families

  • Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dear Liz,

My boyfriend and I are planning to move in together and merge our families in the next month or two. We are in pre-marital counseling and consider ourselves engaged when we do move in. It is both a love thing and a practical thing. What do you recommend for the children who range from a first to a ninth grader, two girls and two boys? They are already planning the housewarming party and helping us select a home to share together. We are fortunate they feel that way, but what steps do we need to take to help this transition be as smooth as possible?

“A Moving Experience”

Dear “Moving,”

This is a huge step, as you acknowledge. It is great you are in pre-marital counseling already and urge you to continue that. Some counseling sessions for the children specifically about the adjustments of becoming a family would be extremely important. Make sure that counselor is highly experienced in blended families.

We need to make sure all children feel they have a voice, and each persons’ individual needs are understood and respected. The key points to agree upon include:

1. Household rules and pre-determined consequences (and rewards) that are age-appropriate and fair.

2. Chore and contribution plans with consequences and rewards.

3. Conflict resolution guidelines.

4. Financial agreements on who pays for what and when including meeting the needs of the children.

5. Morning and night-time routine/schedule (especially on school nights.)

6. Curfews and communication guidelines.

7. Religious expression/church attendance.

8. Guidelines for visiting friends.

9. Creating a master calendar with each child and adults’ schedule on it so everyone knows, in advance, who is going to be where, when.

10. Safety and emergency procedures, including fire drills.

11. Privacy rules and expectations.

You each have parented two children — four is a whole new experience and requires much more coordination, communication and humor. It may test your love and devotion to one another more than you expect.

Remember, that to your children, this is expected to be permanent. They will bond with each of you and the children. Solve each problem as they arise in a calm and fair way. Lean on your counseling and don’t hesitate to reach out for a “tune up” with your counselor, long-term, to “nip any problem in the bud.”

Best wishes to you all.

Dear Liz,

Thank you for your suggestion to have “school morning” drills with the whole family. It has turned into a blast in our family. We did as you recommended, setting the routine up, making sure everyone understood their role, then turned it into no-warning random drills.

Our kids are 6, 8 and 11 – and we are amazed at how quickly they have learned their routine and find it fun to be fast and efficient. They even came up with some suggestions for improvement.

Great idea. Now they can’t wait for school to start so we can do it for real. Bravo. Love it.

Smart starters

Dear Smart,

Thank you for the feedback. Let me know the added things that work for you so we can pass it on. No more school morning blues.

Contact Liz via asksharpliz@gmail.com. Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Master degree level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years experience in mental health.

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