Last week we introduced our five-week series, “Running the Blended Family Marathon.” Week One’s blog, “Taking Our Time” focused on easing into the blending process. Remember, building a relationship with our stepkids and blending two families into one is a marathon, not a sprint.
This week we will focus on communication. The do’s. The don’ts. And a few tips to help build healthy communication within the family. Are you ready? Get set. Let’s go!
Do Communicate Often
Pre-race communication is overkill. Organizers know our minds are not focused on parking and water stations. We are thinking about training mileage and pre-race hydration. So organizers over-communicate. They want to make sure we hear them above all the other noise.
Our children are just like us. “Feed the dog,” we say. “Put your clothes away.” Yet the sounds of their Pokemon club meeting and swim team practice drown us out. Just like the marathon organizers, we must communicate with our children frequently so we don’t get lost in the barrage of information they receive.
Do Communicate Using Their Language. And we all know what language they speak: technology. Instead of swimming against the current, just float with it. Today’s marathoner uses smartphone apps to track mileage, heart rate, and caloric burn. So why not use technology to improve communication with our kids?
Text your stepson and remind him to pick up the dry cleaning. Email your daughter to encourage her to do well on her test this week. Use technology to grow closer to your teen; not to create a barrier between the two of you.
Do Let the Bio Parent Take the Lead. Behind the scenes both parents work together to determine family rules and discipline strategies. Yet when it comes to actually communicating these rules and doling out the discipline, the bio parent takes the lead.
Don’t Communicate Lecture Style. Kids listen the same way they text: in short, pithy, concise fragments. To a child, a conversation longer than a few sentences sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher: “Wah wah wah wah wah wah wah.” If you want them to listen to you and process what you are saying, keep it short and simple.
Don’t Communicate At the Wrong Time of Day. Each child’s internal clock varies. Is your daughter an early bird? Is your stepson a night owl? Some kids bounce in your bed at 6:00 a.m. Other kids want to talk until midnight.
Also pay attention to their hunger clock. Children rarely engage in conversation right before mealtime. Make sure they are well fed before holding a family meeting. Know your child’s optimal hours. Then work around those times to ensure positive communication within the family.
A Couple More Reminders For Building Healthy Communication
- Parents, always present a united front when communicating rules and discipline with your children. Remember, just like animals, children smell fear.
- Accept your children’s feelings. Then teach them to accept each other’s feelings, even when they don’t understand or agree.
Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.