Do you remember watching The Brady Bunch? Even years after it screened on TV, we still remember the catchy theme song:
Here’s the story of a lovely lady
Who was bringing up three very lovely girls.
All of them had hair of gold, like their mother,
The youngest one in curls.
Here’s the story, of a man named Brady,
Who was busy with three boys of his own,
They were four men, living all together,
Yet they were all alone.
Till the one day when the lady met this fellow
And they knew it was much more than a hunch,
That this group would somehow form a family.
That’s the way we all became the Brady Bunch.
The Brady Bunch, That’s the way we all became the Brady Bunch.
The Brady Bunch.
Are you singing along with me? I wonder if it was actually easier to be a step-parent back in 1969 when The Brady Bunch was first aired or whether in reality, the job of being a step parent was as tough then as it is in 2019?
Coming from a blended family myself, I look back on my own childhood experience with the benefit of hindsight and acknowledge the enormity of the task my parents faced. There were no books on ‘7 Tips to Step Parent with Confidence and Ease’ or conferences on ‘The Secret to Forming a Happy Blended Family’ or even talk shows or family counsellors. You were on your own.
If you followed The Brady Bunch to glean some useful step parenting tips, you might have been disillusioned by the discovery that Alice only exists in your television set and real life Mr Brady’s are not always as affable and accommodating as our television version.
Given that real life is much ore complicated than a 70s sitcom, here are my 8 Do’s and Don’ts for Step Parents:
- DON’T criticise the child’s biological parent.
Whatever your personal feelings and issues are, refrain from speaking about them in the home. Remember that even when the child is not physically present in the room, there is always the possibility of them hearing pieces of information and coming to their own conclusions.
- DON’T get angry or frustrated at your child when they repeat something their biological parent may have said or they observed.
Learn to contain your feelings in the moment and to find expression at a more suitable time and context. Your child does not need to hear it! If you have difficulty containing your emotional reponse, talk to a professional counsellor who can assist you to manage your emotions in an appropriate way.
- DON’T be quick to punish or be punitive in your discipline.
Your child will invariably feel conflicted in loyalty and will frequently act or speak in ways that are different to your personal approach to life. Acknowledge that they are living in two families and their experience will be influenced by ways other than your own. Accept this. Where behaviour is inappropriate, be gentle and kind in the way you correct your child.
- DON’T keep secrets.
Your child is more resilient then you think. Speak to them at the appropriate developmental level so that they can form a more accurate and coherent narrative about their life experiences.
- DO speak respectfully when referring to their biological parent, no matter how difficult this might be.
By doing so, you also give respect to your child and role model positive behaviour.
- DO encourage your child to talk about their biological parent.
Be interested in what they do together and encourage your child to display and use gifts they receive from their biological parent.
- DO encourage open communication by spending time with them.
Be curious about their interests and attentive to what they say.
- DO love them and treat them no differently to the way you treat your own biological child.
Children are highly intuitive to adult pretence so make it your aim to be the parent that they need you to be.
These are just a few tips to get you on the right track, however every blended family has its own unique personality and understanding the nuances of family dynamics takes time and care. If you are experiencing difficulties or simply feeling the need for support and encouragement, make a point to find a family therapist or family counsellor who is trained in family dynamics and can assist your family to communicate and adjust to the particular challenges that you face together.
Do you have a blended family? Are you trying to bring two families together? Here’s what you need to do: Contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10 minute consultation on how we can best help you or book online now.