Jo Ball

Article Summary:

Improve communication in the blended family with this technique.

Blended Family Communication Tip

A common gripe in a stepfamily is that people feel they're not being listened to.

We're all busy and there is often a lot to be communicated in a stepfamily. It's really important for everyone to have a say and be listened to. Equal amount of airtime can makes a huge difference too.

In our family, the after school, evening mealtime is the first time the four of us come together in the day. This means that we all have things to tell each other or ask and, in the past, it often resulted in everyone interrupting and bitty, unfinished conversations.

After eating we'd clear up and put away (our children have always been involved with this) and we'd all leave the kitchen. I often felt frustrated or fed-up at being interrupted and unheard. Most nights I also felt exhausted.

So my partner and I decided to make a few subtle changes. Rather than something that we just wanted to get done and out of the way we made our dinner a more social experience.

We asked them to lay the table, including glasses and a water jug and we decided to serve the food at the table.

To encourage a decent conversation we each wrote on a small piece of paper something that we wanted to talk about over dinner. The paper was folded and placed in a bowl.

Then one by one we pulled out a note and had a conversation about it. We decided we'd go around the table twice to see what everyone thought or felt about the subject then drew the next one out.

It worked wonderfully, having everyone focused on one topic at a time. We had a lovely time. Everyone engaged and felt listened too.

An amazing unexpected benefit also occurred. We found that at the end of clearing up everyone was in less of a rush to get away. We felt like we'd had a enjoyable social experience as a family and were all really contented.

Having the children be involved with things that are happening in the home is a great benefit. If you want to have your children be more involved than they have been be sure to make any changes subtly and gently.

Let them know it's going to happen in advance and avoid dumping things on them last minute and show respect, by making them feel part of the process when you can, by discussing changes with them before they happen - if they are old enough.

Jo Ball, LCA, Dip, is a stepfamily coach and founder of The Stepfamily Coach that offers support and advice to divorced or separated parents and their new families. She's worked with many families helping them to move beyond the stress and strain of blending a family so they achieve happiness and harmony at home.

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