In the previous two articles in this series we covered the first two topics in a list of items that we believe to be critical to the success of blended families, namely time and discipline. In this next segment we are going to be addressing the third issue on that list – relationship building, and talking about how you can build relationships with your new family members.
Relationships, like Rome, are not built in a day. They take time to develop and evolve. Which makes sense when you think about the foundational components of any healthy family relationship – love, trust, honesty and kindness. Love does not blossom overnight, and trust takes a while to grow. So you need to move into this part of the process knowing that it’s going to take a while. However, just because the process is slow, doesn’t mean you can’t take an active role in the process. Here are a few things you can do to help it along:
Multiple studies have shown that families who eat at least one meal together every day are closer, and tend to have fewer relational issues. Also, children who eat dinner with their parents daily have been shown to have fewer eating disorders, lower instances of depression, and are less likely to become involved with drugs.
All of those benefits aside, however, the simple fact is that it’s a great time to connect with your family. Ask about their day. Get them talking about their interests. Allow them to talk to each other and don’t interrupt the conversation (unless it’s a fight and you need to step in). It may be awkward at first, but give it time. Eventually most kids enjoy this time of communing together and relaxing over a meal. And over time it will slowly strengthen your blended family and their individual relationships with each other.
If it is at all possible, one-on-one “dates” with your kids is an awesome way to get to know them as individuals, away from all of the distractions of daily life. Spending uninterrupted time together doing something enjoyable will build a relationship much faster than simply encountering each other during the chaos of the day. Try to set a “date” time every few weeks or once a month with each child. And be sure not to forget, double-book, or cancel without rescheduling and then honoring the newly scheduled time.
Take a child who loves sports to a game. Take a child out for ice cream or to the movies. Or simply walk the dog and take only one of the children with you, which will allow you an opportunity to spend some one-on-one time together. There are lots of ways to enjoy a little quality time with a child. It will bring you closer together and build your relationship with them.
The more you make an effort to show them that you are genuinely interested in their lives, and care about what they care about, the stronger your bond will be. And remember: actions speak louder than words. So telling them that they are important and that you love them will only go so far – you will need to show them.
Join us next time for the next installment in this series, where we will be talking about that most prickly of subjects, “the other parent”. We know this can be a really difficult process, but hang in there. All the best things in life are worth fighting for!