Last year, an otherwise smooth situation got rocky for our blended family.
There were consistently late and missing pick ups and drop offs at the kids’ schools. There were repeated last-minute requests to adjust schedules we’d already agreed upon. An increase in “I thought you said…” and “I thought you meant…” misunderstandings and petty remarks and sarcastic responses.
My husband and I have been in a blended family for almost a decade—six years married and almost nine years together. With that type of longevity, often times we get comfortable in our routines and take for granted the work required to maintain healthy communication and relationships in a blended family.
It’s probably time to sit down and have a conversation to realign priorities and figure out what adjustments need to be made. Keep the following in mind:
1. Realize old tools won’t work for new circumstances.
Children get older, your ex may get married or have another child. Someone may move to another side of town. Circumstances change. Don’t get upset when what was working for you isn’t working for someone else anymore.
Life ebbs and flows. Update your arrangement so that it is reasonable for everyone. If applicable, amend your shared custody agreement. Consider the costs and sacrifices versus what is within your capacity, then adjust and move on.
2. Give your children a seat at the table.
It is my personal belief that we should include our children in decisions that affect them. Ask your children their opinion about the schedule.
This doesn’t mean that they should dictate all the comings and goings. They should however be invited to have a voice in the family structure. You may be surprised at the ideas they have.
Note: This is for mature children who understand responsibility and consequences.
3. Use your manners.
“Please” and “thank you” are far too underrated in 2020.
It’s still polite to ask. Don’t assume that because they moved their schedule around for you last week, they can and will do it again this week.
Simple polite tones or expressions can turn a negative conversation into a positive one. Instead of “I need you to…” try, “Would it be ok if…?” I can’t tell you how many times a change in tone not only changed the outcome but built trust and integrity among our blended family.
So please, say thank you.
4. Avoid introducing too many changes at once.
It may not be a good idea to change the visitation schedule in conjunction with a new school, move, or other hiccup. The younger the children are, the more rattled they will be by too many moving parts. This may cause frustration and even blame among the parents involved. Make transitions slowly and steadily.
5. Keep ultimatums off the table.
Don’t make unreasonable requests, and don’t put someone in a corner to make them choose between all the people they love and care for. If this is an otherwise safe and loving family environment, everyone is valued and cared for and everyone’s best interests are top of mind.
It’s imperative to understand that as adults, we set the tone and attitude of the family relationship. Just because the flow gets a bit bumpy isn’t reason to completely undo all the work you’ve put in up until now. Learn how to adjust as life adjusts.