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At times it makes more sense to have a combination of intervention that provides both marriage and family therapy. This is often the preferred means of relationship help when there are “blended family” difficulties present. Blended families consists of a biological parent, a stepparent and the children of one or both parents. Today, more than 7 million children under the age of 18 live in blended families ( U.S. Census, 2002). When blended families form, the usual problems of families may become more complex. Before seeking relationship counseling, you can try the following:
1. Openly discuss and come to agreement on living arrangements. Many couples prefer to move into a new home rather than dealing with one party not feeling at home and the other feeling invaded. Children do best with either remaining in the family home or moving into new space with adequate room for them.
2. Financial matters need to be dealt with upfront and honestly. A plan to either share or keep money separate will need to be agreed upon.
3. Decide how to deal with parenting issues and discipline. The adults need to discuss their roles in parenting their respective children and any changes in household rules.
4. Don't forget your marriage. You are not starting with the luxury of only each other to focus upon. You already have children, ex-spouses, and complex lives. Set aside time and activities to do alone. If you have guilt about doing this, remember this will benefit your children by making your relationship and home more stable.
5. Relationships between stepparents and stepchildren need careful handling. These relationship generally involve more conflict than those of biological families. Be careful not to jump into the role of disciplinarian before you have a foundation of care and trust established. However, don't rush the mushy gushy stuff either. Be open and available to the children and pay attention to their signals about what they are ready for.