Building a strong family identity is important for every family, but for blended families the need to establish their family’s identity is absolutely critical to the health and strength of the new family unit.

Every family will encounter personalities that don’t mesh and family members who view life differently from one another. Those differences are to be expected. However, when two previously established family units begin the process of developing a new family identity, those differences can cause pain and heartache. Understanding that differences will occur and learning how to proactively address those differences can mean the difference between relational strife and family cohesiveness.

But how can a blended family begin the process of working through differences in order to develop new traditions, routines, standards, and convictions that will become the foundation of their new family paradigm?

How can a stepmom begin to build relationships with her stepchildren?

How can a stepdad protect and nurture children who may not see him as their father?

Clear communication is the first step when it comes to establishing a new family paradigm. Those things that aren’t discussed and which can never be mentioned are the very things that can tear a family apart. However, when every family member feels safe sharing their feelings, fears, and observations, everyone can work together to develop proactive solutions for family issues.

As mom and dad work hard to provide a safe home where everyone is valued and respected, the children will be able to confidently share their thoughts. When everyone in the new family unit is equally valued and equally heard, communication will flow freely.

Often, blended families try to simply “ooze” into a new paradigm. They hope that by simply beginning to enact new routines everyone will be cooperative. They establish new traditions, but they don’t include the children in the process. Although their intentions are good, by excluding the children from the discussion they provide fertile soil for misunderstanding, distrust, and hurt feelings.

Because the children of blended families have known a previous family dynamic, it’s essential to show them respect as that previously known family dynamic begins to change. A family conference table is a great way to build communication and address any concerns your children are facing. A family conference table will give your children the opportunity to contribute and become a part of the decision-making process. So many of the choices that have already been made in their lives have been choices that were out of their control. Allowing them to have a voice in their new family’s decisions will help them begin to take ownership of that new family.

Once the children in a blended family take ownership of their new family, they will then begin to develop a loyalty and love for that new family. Loyalty and love are a blended family’s greatest weapons to combat strife and disunity!

At your family conference table take the time to hear everyone’s thoughts. Ask good questions to understand what is behind your children’s questions. Perhaps your children are balking at your new choices because they fear losing important parts of their past. Perhaps they are challenging your decisions because they are afraid of seeming disloyal to their other parent. Perhaps they just want to feel needed in this new family situation!

Reassure your children that although building a new family identity will take time, you’re confident that it will happen.

Reaffirm to your children the fact that you always, always, always want to hear their thoughts and fears.

Respect your children’s views and revise your decisions when necessary.

As in any family, the children should never be the ones who make the final family decisions and we certainly can’t allow them to manipulate the communication process with anger, arguments, or emotional outbursts. However, because of the unique situation in which they find themselves, we must allow the children of blended families the opportunity to have a voice in the new family decisions.

Blended families can develop a beautiful family identity… it just takes time, patience, and prayer! Don’t grow weary when it seems that no one wants to be a member of this new family team. Simply keep communicating and keep loving every member of the family and watch as God begins to knit your hearts together!