Attitude

RLL 71: Quick Tips for a Better Blended Family

Real Life Leading 71: Quick Tips for a Better Blended Family

This week, I was reminded of how much I still have to learn. Providentially, that reminder coincided with the publishing of a podcast interview that is all about lessons and tips for blended families. Anna Seewald, founder of Authentic Parenting (https://authenticparenting.com/) , and I had an excellent conversation on the topic of blended families. Below is a summary of what we discussed as well as a link to our interview. I hope that both prove helpful to you and your family.

8 Quick Tips for a Better Blended Family

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1. Seek to apply the golden rule: Treat other people the way you want them to treat you, even when it’s difficult. And sometimes, in order to do this, we must leave past perceptions in the past.

2. Put kids first, especially when it’s hard or inconvenient. At its heart, this is a large part of what parenting is all about, so be willing to put what’s good for the children ahead of your own desires.

3. Make decisions with the long term goals in mind. Keep your focus on helping them become the adult that God has created them to be.

4. Speak gently whenever there is a disagreement [full disclosure: I have failed at this many times with my daughters, and it has caused much damage. I strongly urge you to be aware of your tone, especially when speaking with children.]  When speaking with other adults, the best way to decompress a situation is to speak calmly, no matter what. It isn’t always easy, but speaking over someone is not going to get anyone the result they desire

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5. Accept that you can never get things 100% your way in a blended family (or in any family, really). Once you accept that, it becomes much easier to do adapt and compromise as necessary.

6. As much as possible, be flexible and adaptable, especially regarding time. There is generally a written “rule” or legal document, but consider being flexible when it is helpful to the kids. [Again, full disclosure: this is something that I’m very thankful my ex-wife and I both strive to do, allowing each other to see the kids when it’s not “our week” with them.]

7. Be willing to apologize for your mistakes. Openly acknowledge when you are wrong. Not only is this the right thing to do, it also sets an example for your children to follow.

8. Make it a habit to speak well of the other adults involved in the relationship. It’s important not to bad mouth each other, and it may be even more important to purposefully point out the positives! Be sure to talk about how loved the children are by all of their parents.

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 55: Rainy Days and Recliners--The Importance of Perspective

Real Life Leading #55

Rainy Days and Recliners: The Importance of Perspective

THANKS to my best friend David for recommending this book to me!

THANKS to my best friend David for recommending this book to me!

This past week saw a couple of brutally rainy days where my family lives in north Alabama: flash flood warnings, soaked yards, dangerous driving conditions, etc. These were the kinds of days that make a person want to remain in pajama pants and just read or sleep all day. Unfortunately, we were unable to do that, especially since the end-of-semester exams are rapidly approaching. It would have been easy to be depressed or irritable about the weather and the work to be done, but fortunately I had a couple of great reminders this week about the importance of my perspective.

You see, this week I read two amazing books by Andy Andrews, called The Noticer and The Noticer Returns. In both of those books, the main character has an uncanny ability to help people gain what he calls ‘proper perspective.’ Inevitably, Jones (the main character) helps various people to realize that things are different than they had originally thought by helping people change their perspective. When that happens, they also see a change in their attitudes and eventually their choices. And that is the key today: how we think about and how we view our situation will greatly shape our future.

A kid, a book, a pup, and a recliner. This is a serious high-point of life in my world!

A kid, a book, a pup, and a recliner. This is a serious high-point of life in my world!

For example, if you’re reading this right now, there’s a great chance you’re reading it indoors: in a home, a school, or a business somewhere. This building has electricity, heat, and (obviously) internet access. These things that we take for granted are not as universally available as we often tend to think, and when we remember that, it helps us regain proper perspective as well.

By way of another example, let me share this: on my off days, I enjoy reading books in a recliner that my siblings and I gave our dad as a gift not long before he passed away. Since then, it has been in my home as a place of comfort and ease and memories. Often, to what used to cause me great annoyance, I would come into the den only to find that my recliner had been usurped by either one of my daughters or one of my dogs. One day, however, I was struck by the thought—and I can’t believe it took me so long to realize this—that Dad would have been happy for his recliner to be used not just by me but also by others that he loved. He would have preferred it, really, since that meant that more people were enjoying his chair. And ever since then it’s become my habit to say a quick prayer of thanks whenever my recliner is occupied, because it means I’m also surrounded by loved ones, even if they’re in my seat.

These books contain incredible truth and power. Give them a read!

These books contain incredible truth and power. Give them a read!

The same goes for each time I see my wife or one of my daughters wearing some of my clothes, especially soccer gear: t-shirts, pullovers, hoodies, etc. I like my clothes and I like to wear them, but it makes me smile to see my wife and kids borrow them and enjoy them too. So instead of being irritated at not being able to wear a specific shirt on a certain day, I can be glad that I have loved ones around who want to borrow them.

Gaining ‘perspective,’ as Andy Andrews points out, has the power to change not just how we view our situation, but the situation itself. Correct thinking is the key to gaining wisdom, to seeing things properly, and to growing in appreciation for the gifts we have been given.

“The way a person thinks is the key to everything that follows -- good or bad, success or failure. A person's thinking -- the way he thinks -- is the foundation structure upon which a life is built. Thinking guides decisions. Thinking -- how a person thinks -- determines every choice.” - from The Noticer Returns

Action Step: This week, let us commit to right thinking and proper perspective. Make a list of situations that cause you stress or annoyance. Then spend some time thinking of ways to view the situation differently, to regain happiness or joy from the situation.

(For more info on this and how to change your thinking, be sure to go by www.beliefhacker.com and check out the work being done by my friend Dr. Bill Findley. #ThinkBetterLiveBetter)