RLL 60--Keys to Blended Family Life

Real Life Leading #60

Keys to Blended Family Life


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 (, 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 or click on the Blended Family tab at the top of the page.

RLL 58: 10 Commandments of Blended Families

Real Life Leading 58:

10 Commandments of Blended Families

Good morning, and I hope everyone is having an amazing Christmas season. This week, I want to briefly share with you a few thoughts that are near and dear to my heart, thoughts on blended families and holidays. As many of you know, I’m divorced and remarried, and my ex-wife is also remarried. We have two daughters from that marriage, and my ex-wife and her husband have a son who is now a toddler. We all have family from in town and out of town, and so holidays can be complicated. However, I’m also very thankful to say that we’ve been able to put together a pretty good system of working together so that the holidays, though still busy, are much less stressful than they might be.

Speaking at the NHSA Conference in Orlando, FL, presenting my work on ‘Four Parents, Two Houses: Parenting Together Despite Difficulties’

Speaking at the NHSA Conference in Orlando, FL, presenting my work on ‘Four Parents, Two Houses: Parenting Together Despite Difficulties’

This past week, my wife and I were in Orlando so that I could deliver a presentation on blended family life, and I shared many of our experiences, some of my my mistakes, and many examples of how blended family life can be made better. The response was extremely encouraging, and I’m hoping it’ll be helpful to you as well. So, this week, here are the Ten Commandments of Blended Families. If you have any questions or feedback, please get in touch and let me know. Also, for more great info on blended families, be sure to check out the work of Ron Deal The website and his books are amazing and contain much wisdom.

Ok, without any further delay, here are the 10 Commandments of Blended Family Life:

  1. Over communicate with all adults involved: choose a format/technology that works, and use it. When in doubt, communicate.

  2. Be respectful, calm, and patient with everyone involved, even if you feel like you’re the only one doing it. (“A soft answer turns away wrath”).

  3. Use discernment to learn to choose your battles very carefully: differentiate between personal dislikes and ‘red flag’ issues.

  4. Be willing to graciously give way on minor issues. Yes, this comes with risk, but it’s still the right thing to do sometimes.

  5. Choose to believe the best about the other household, and be sure to celebrate and acknowledge it when you see it.

  6. Express genuine gratitude as often as possible whenever a joint agreement is reached.

  7. Remember every day that you are the adult, and your task is to model maturity and wisdom for your children. Your task is NOT to ‘win’, get revenge, or even get your own way.

  8. Don’t be afraid to ask for 3rd-party help from a counselor, pastor, neutral friend, or someone else that all parties are comfortable with.

  9. Work through your personal issues on your time, NOT in front of or by involving the children.

  10. Be as consistent as possible at both (or all) houses in all areas of life. Also remember that total consistency is impossible, even in traditional families.

Celebrating with my wife at the end of conference Christmas party. We had a great time at the event, and we’re so thankful to have connected with some amazing people there!

Celebrating with my wife at the end of conference Christmas party. We had a great time at the event, and we’re so thankful to have connected with some amazing people there!

These are the foundations for the way our large, complex, four-parent/two-house family has worked for the past five+ years, and we’re very grateful that God has brought us to a pretty great place. It’s still not perfect, but it is much, much better than it might be. It has taken time and effort and tears and hard work on all sides, but it is worth it. The key to all of it is to focus on have the proper mindset, and the actions will follow. Exercise humility (self-forgetfulness), be willing to admit fault and compromise, keep a long-term perspective, and always put the children first.

Merry Christmas, and may you all be blessed!

* Be the adult you want your children to become. (adapted from Gandhi’s quote “Be the change you want to see in the world.”)

Action Step: This week, ask yourself how you can contribute to making your family life (traditional, blended, or anything else) a more positive situation by working with and respecting others.

RLL 26: The Power of Partnerships--Two C's to Working Better Together

RLL 26

The Power of Partnerships: Two C’s of Working Better Together

I’m very excited to be working on the final editing and revisions for my book that’s due out this summer! Since I’m planning to self-publish, I’ve been learning as much about that process as I can, and this week I stumbled across a hidden jewel that applies not just in book writing but in all of leadership. Here it is (paraphrased from Chandler Bolt, best-selling author of six books, including Publish and Book Launch): ‘When writing a book, the purpose of working with an editor is to produce something that is better than you would have been able to create on your own.’

As my wife and I were walking our dogs yesterday, I told her about how I came across that piece of wisdom and how much it struck a chord with me. She agreed, and we discussed it at further length as we continued to walk, and the more we discussed it, the more examples I came across in my world. I want to share with you two key insights today that I gathered from Chandler’s wisdom: collaboration and compromise are necessary to the creation of great things, and that requires the humility to engage in both.

Key #1: The Necessity of COLLABORATION

All of us gathered together to celebrate our daughter's baptism at her grandfather's church.

All of us gathered together to celebrate our daughter's baptism at her grandfather's church.

The first key to understanding why partnerships are so powerful is in that sentence above, because (within reason) working with other people toward a common goal is going to produce better results than you would have achieved alone. We see this in education, where many classrooms today use the word collaboration to describe ways in which students work together on projects, in study groups, or to complete complex assignments. In these situations, students use their particular skill sets in combination with other students, and the results are of a higher quality than any individual student would have produced alone. Collaboration has become a bit of an education buzzword actually, both for students and for teachers, and the goal is always the same: raise the quality of work being done by combining the strengths (and thus also shoring up the weaknesses) of multiple people.

The same is true in family life, when both parents are working together for the good of the family. Now, please, don’t misunderstand me: I’m NOT bashing single parents. I know there are many, many single parents who do more and work harder and longer hours than they should have to, just for the sake of their children. I also know (and am thankful for) the many loving friends and family members who help single parents with logistical things, like picking kids up from school or running errands from time to time. And I believe all of these things further drive home my point: when there are two parents, a mother and father working together, that is when the family functions best. That’s why God designed it that way.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me give a little background into my own world: my parents divorced when I was in middle school, and we lived with my mom afterward. However, because of my parents’ love for us and their willingness to compromise, we also saw my father almost every day and we even still celebrated many holidays together. That is, my mom and dad continued to work together for the sake of their three children even though it was sometimes difficult and unusual. As an adult, I also am divorced and was a single parent for a time, as was my ex-wife. I am now remarried, as is my ex-wife, and the four adults involved all work together for the sake of our children. This is the type of collaboration that is necessary in our current divorce-heavy culture. And this leads to the second key here: having enough humility to compromise.

KEY #2: COMPROMISE requires humility

Butterscotch (on the left) and Bruiser (on the right) don't look too happy about being kept out of the garden!

Butterscotch (on the left) and Bruiser (on the right) don't look too happy about being kept out of the garden!

Any time you work in close contact with another adult, there will have to be compromise. In working on the final revisions of my book, I’ve asked my wife and a few other people to go through and make editing suggestions. One of the people who did, a lady I call my second mom, emailed me with a list of over fifty different edits that needed to be made. And in her email, she made a joke about how I’ll probably never ask for her help again because of the number of mistakes. I was sure to email her back and let her know that I was actually very grateful to her for the suggestions that she made and that I took no offense at how many mistakes she found.

We saw this idea in my house again this weekend when my wife and I were rebuilding a garden in our backyard. We built a garden last weekend, but the quality was not very high, and it became obvious that we needed to rethink our plan. So she went and talked with her parents, and they came up with a much better design. As we built the garden beds, moved the dirt, and built a better fence, multiple small changes were necessary in order to accommodate the reality of our situation: our backyard was not as flat as we’d thought, and we have two large dogs who needed to be kept out of the beds. In the end, thanks to suggestions and hard work from my wife, her mom, and her dad, the final product is somewhat different and also much better than what we had originally done last week and what was intended to be done yesterday. This wouldn’t have been possible if we had stubbornly stuck to the plan drawn up on paper, instead of being willing to make a few changes.

Conclusion: working together (within reason) always produces better results than we would be able to achieve on our own! So, let us have the humility to compromise and collaborate with others so that, together, we can produce things of better quality and lasting value.

Action Step: ask someone for help with a project you’re working on, and be willing to implement at least one of their suggestions even if they’re radically different than what you had originally intended.

Don’t forget to be looking out for my upcoming book on leadership! In the meantime, I hope you’ve enjoyed the first chapter that I emailed out to everyone last week. If you’d like to partner with me in sharing buzz about the book ahead of time, please let me know. Thanks, and God bless!