This is where we wrap it up. Having discussed all of those hot button topics like discipline, being patient, respecting each other’s space, and dealing with the “other” parent, we’re now going to talk about that oft-forgotten final issue – creating rituals. Sounds strange, but we aren’t talking about religious rituals here, we are talking about family rituals. Things that you do together on certain days, or at certain times, that help to unite all the members of your family.
Rituals, which are much like traditions, bring everyone together for something enjoyable and meaningful that helps to build relationships and establish your new family as a unit. So a great way to build unity in your newly blended family, is to create new family rituals and traditions together.
For the “littles”
Younger children need structure, routine and predictability to feel safe and loved. That much is a widely known fact. So in working to unify your new family, create rituals that focus on time together doing something soothing or fun-filled on a fixed schedule.
This can be any number of things, like a trip to a nearby park every Friday afternoon before dinner, or a Saturday morning bike ride around your neighborhood. Sunday morning pancake brunch, a nightly bedtime story, or even a daily afterschool snuggle on the couch while you talk about the events of the day are all good ideas.
As long as you commit to putting it on your schedule as a fixed feature, and that you honor it as often as you possibly can, it will speak volumes to the younger children in your new family.
For the “bigs”
Teenagers can be much harder to include in family rituals, as they are often struggling with their own attitudes and hormones and mini-melodramas. But be persistent! Even if you get rolled eyes, loud sighs, and sassy attitudes, don’t give up. If you are sincere and genuine in your desire to include them and love them as they are, you will eventually win them over.
Because teens are much more fixed in what they like and don’t like, it can be a little harder to find things they enjoy. The more you talk to them and try to draw them out, the more likely you are to discover what it is that they enjoy, which will give you clues as to how to create rituals to include them.
A Tuesday evening movie with popcorn, after homework is done, perhaps. Making a cake on Sunday afternoons, if they have an interest in baking. Or a once-monthly Saturday afternoon trip to the mall. (Assuming, of course, that they aren’t ashamed to be seen at the mall with a parent!) Even something simple like taking a short evening walk together, or buying them a gym membership at your local gym so that you can run or swim together will go a long way towards establishing a relationship.
If you can afford it, a weekly dinner out at a restaurant, or even just stopping for ice-cream on the way home from Saturday errands every week is something everyone can enjoy. If the children in your new family are shared between two homes, then creating “re-entry” rituals for their return home can make all of the difference. Getting their favorite take-out dinner for their first night back home, or stopping at the park on the way home from the other parent’s house can smooth the transition considerably.
We hope this series has helped you to plan for your new family’s future together, and given you some ideas about how to handle a few of the tougher spots. Remember, never give up hope, and never stop trying. It may be difficult for a while, but press in, and in the end the relationships and friendships your blended family forges within itself will have been worth every ounce of effort. Good luck!