Leadership

RLL 63: Over-Communicate with All Adults Involved

Real Life Leading 63: Over-Communicate with All of the Adults

We all know what it’s like to be frustrated over a lack of communication: events get missed or are only found out about at the last minute; important items get left or forgotten at various locations; key information doesn’t get shared in a timely manner; and as a result, tensions increase and feelings of resentment abound. I have been guilty of poor communication resulting in all of the previously mentioned situations, and so I can speak from experience about the importance of good communication, especially in blended families.

Sign-language is not my preferred method of communication. But my daughter rocks at it, so I’m learning!

Sign-language is not my preferred method of communication. But my daughter rocks at it, so I’m learning!

In our four-parent, two-household world, communication is the oil in the engine: without good communication, everything breaks down rather quickly. We have two daughters, a teenager and an almost teenager, both of whom have complex schedules due to school, sports, and friends. All four of the adults have busy schedules with work and taking care of the kids. Thus for us, communication is paramount. Like everyone else, we’re not perfect, but I can tell you that we’ve gotten pretty good about communicating with each other. I’ve found two keys from our situation that I want to share with you today.

First, choose a format that works for you, and then USE it.

The world we live in has faster, more reliable communication than humans could have imagined in the past (though Guglielmo Marconi might disagree, what with his inventing wireless radio over a hundred years ago and predicting even better wireless communication at the same time). There are an infinite number of social media options and apps, in addition to regular texts, phone calls, and emails, that allow people to stay in touch. Each one comes with pros and cons, so evaluate what works best.

For example, texting is what we use the most, supplemented by the occasional email or phone call. But text messages, as most people know, are notoriously difficult to interpret in terms of the tone (even if you use emojis). Thus, if you are texting, be sure to extend each other grace in the event of possible misinterpretation (for more info, see last week’s blog post: https://reallifeleading.com/real-life-leading-blog/923e9d98wdwyb8pg8ck2y2madxrlx2). The bottom line is this: you have to use the technology for it to work, so be sure to be consistent about your contact with all the other adults involved.

Second, when in doubt about whether or not to share something with the other adults, SHARE it. When in doubt, communicate.

I was very blessed to be able to share this information at the National Head Start Association conference in Florida just before Christmas

I was very blessed to be able to share this information at the National Head Start Association conference in Florida just before Christmas

In my opinion and experience, it’s always better to over-communicate than to do the opposite. If I text my ex-wife and her husband about something that happened in our girls’ lives during their week at our house, and it’s not as big of a deal as I thought, that’s ok. They still know, and they genuinely appreciate me keeping them in the loop about our kids. The same works in reverse: when something happens that even might be a bit deal, I like to know about it, and so I appreciate it when they let me know as soon as possible.

The biggest danger here is the danger of texting (or emailing, or whatever you choose) too often. That is a concern, but I’d argue it’s worth the risk, generally speaking. Why? Well, consider the alternative for a moment: the kids are struggling at school, or one of them is very upset about an issue with a friend, and that issue carries over to the other household the next week. Now, the other parents are blind-sided by the issue when they could have already been in the loop and thus better prepared to help the children out or at least to encourage them in a difficult spot. Again, I think it’s worth the risk, especially if all the adults involved are of the same mindset about over-communication (which, funnily enough, is also a conversation worth having!).

Action Step: talk with the other adults involved in your blended family, and figure out the preferred method of communication. Then, start to use it more regularly.

RLL 60--Keys to Blended Family Life

Real Life Leading #60

Keys to Blended Family Life

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Happy (late) New Year! I’m excited to share with you this first post of 2019 and in doing so to give an update on what the new year holds.

I was blessed to give my presentation on blended families called ‘Four Parents, Two Houses: Parenting Together Despite Difficulties’ at the National Head Start Association conference in Florida just before Christmas. Afterward, we were extremely encouraged at the response: there was tremendous support, feedback, and a desire to learn more from the audience. Many in the audience inquired about other resources and what they can do to help other blended families in their hometowns, and I’m looking forward to continuing to support them.

Recent statistics suggest that about 60-70% of second marriages fail (https://family.lovetoknow.com/co-parenting/blended-family-statistics), and many of these marriages are the ones that have created blended families. Thus, there is a tremendous need to help blended families succeed, and I’m thrilled to be a part of that. I’m part of a blended family and have been for years, and I’m thankful to share the wisdom from other blended families as well. Within our situation, I’m also thankful that all four parents (and the many grandparents) have worked so hard to make our lives work as well as they do, and I truly want others to experience the same type of success.

One of my favorite family pictures: mean-mugging with the soccer balls in front of a goal!

One of my favorite family pictures: mean-mugging with the soccer balls in front of a goal!

Within blended families, even before parents may be remarried, every issue becomes more complex because there are more moving pieces. Issues that are already difficult in traditional families now have more moving parts, more opinions, and more egos involved. Issues such as holiday or sports schedules; vacations and activities; teenage issues like cars and clothing and make-up and dating; inter-family and/or sibling rivalries and favoritism (real or perceived); buying patters for household items; and what we call ‘switch-over’ items that travel between homes; all of these are potential stumbling blocks for blended families and thus need to be discussed with patience, care, and compassion by all parties involved. And these are just the beginning. Each blended family will also have circumstances unique to its own situation that will require patience and understanding.

Because of the difficulties, the single biggest asset that parents can bring to blended families is humility: self-forgetfulness and a willingness to serve others by putting their interests first. The key to blended family life is to focus on the proper mindset, because then the actions will more easily follow. There are three tips I want to share (that I elaborate on in my presentations) about how to approach blended family life:

  1. Exercise humility by putting the children first and being willing to serve and listen to others, including the other household and/or other adults involved in the situation.

  2. Be willing to admit fault and compromise. Celebrate every victory, however small.

  3. Keep a long-term perspective, and learn to pick your battles. There’s a large difference between something that is actually dangerous or harmful to your children and something that is simply inconvenient to you or something you don’t like very much. [On issues of dangerous or harmful situations (what I call red-flag issues), seek outside help and guidance, but still try to do so as gently as possible, for the sake of the long-term relationships of the children with all parents involved.]

I sum all of this up by paraphrasing Gandhi: “Be the adult and parent you want your children to become.”

These guidelines might sound simple, but they become quite complex when you actually seek to apply them. I’d love to help you learn how to live a better blended family life in 2019!

Action step: If you or someone you know could benefit from learning more about this, be sure to share this or reach out to them and just encourage them.

Have an amazing 2019, and I look forward to hearing from you. For more info on blended family life, check out the video on my website https://reallifeleading.com/ or click on the Blended Family tab at the top of the page.

RLL 53: '100 Years Since the Great War'

RLL 53: '100 Years Since the Great War'

One of my favorite veterans: my dad! This is also one of my all-time favorite pictures: Dad in his signature Dodgers cap, my older daughter in a Cinderella gown, and me getting ready to coach a soccer game. These kinds of memories are ones to treasure.

One of my favorite veterans: my dad! This is also one of my all-time favorite pictures: Dad in his signature Dodgers cap, my older daughter in a Cinderella gown, and me getting ready to coach a soccer game. These kinds of memories are ones to treasure.

Today, on the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, the day that ended what would become known as World War I, I am struck with three thoughts that I wanted to share with all of you. These three thoughts occurred to me in relation to how to celebrate our holiday of Veterans’ Day, but they also are great reminders about how we should approach leadership.

First, we should do the work of remembering. Our brains are funny things, and when we fail to think of things often enough, we tend to forget them. This isn’t new or novel information, but it’s worth being reminded about: we need to be reminded and we need to remind ourselves of important information. That’s the whole purpose of holidays (literally ‘holy days’, or days set aside for a special purpose): to remember something important from our past. So today, let us remember the service and sacrifice that millions have made to give us the world that we live in today. It’s far from perfect, but it’s also better than it might be.

Another one of my favorite veterans: my mom! Here, Mom and my younger daughter were dressed up for a school event.

Another one of my favorite veterans: my mom! Here, Mom and my younger daughter were dressed up for a school event.

Second, we should be grateful for what we have and where we are. We live in a world with amazing technology, plenty of food and medicine, and a world that even goes out of its way to be beautiful (fall leaves, anyone?). God has given us this amazing planet to live on, and we need to show gratitude to the Creator of beauty and to the brave men and women who have fought to make it safe for us to enjoy such beauty.

Third, we should be humble and kind in all of our dealings with other people, especially with those that we disagree with. There are some serious disagreements out there, but if we approach each conversation and interaction with love and respect, with truth and gentleness, with humility and service in our minds, then we’re much more likely to have a helpful, positive interaction. Plus, it’s just good policy. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” Every single human is an immortal being created in the image of God, and when we remember that, we tend to treat them differently, better.

Today, let us remember those who have made our world possible. Let us honor them and thank them. Let us show gratitude and humility in our dealings with others. And most importantly, let us be thankful to Jesus for making all things, and let us look forward to His return.

Action Step: be sure to thank a veteran (or a lot of veterans)!