Monday, May 21, 2012

Caution: Merge ahead

Our move is only 3 days away & we've all been crammed into Xing Fu's smallish condo since last Saturday--tensions are bound to crop up as we try to figure all of this out.  It is a very good thing that we're going to move to a completely new space together when we merge our families--no one has territorial connections & we have to all start from scratch.  Because while we're living at Xing Fu's we're not in our own space & boy can I tell you about territorialism! This past weekend, Xing Fu's children's little dog (about the size of our cat), came to the condo with the girls.  This is what ensued:

 My cat flipped out!  I think we made a tactical error by having the dog here in such a smallish space.  The poor cat hid for most of the weekend & still is off his feed.  Poor cat--we've managed to rock his little world twice in the space of one week--he never knew what hit him....

I think my son & I are grieving a little bit for our house.  I think for different reasons but we're grieving nonetheless. I think that's one thing going through my kid's head--this just ain't his space.  Plus he's no longer an "only" child.  Now he'll be third of four.  Instant siblings!  And, for quite a few years now, it's only been him & me--no other adult to have to contend with--that's gotta rock someone's world to be sure! All this thrust upon him plus moving has got to be tough--I'm just trying to normalize it for him.  But he is feeling it acutely. As a result, I've been doing a little research on blended families & this is what I came up with from & the authors:Gina Kemp, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Lawrence Robinson. :
  • Changes in family relationships. If both parents remarry partners with existing families, it can mean children suddenly find themselves with different roles in two blended families. For example, one child may be the eldest in one stepfamily but the youngest in the other. Blending families may also mean one child loses his or her uniqueness as the only boy or girl in the family.
  • Difficulty in accepting a new parent. If children have spent a long time in a one-parent family, or if children still nurture hopes of reconciling their parents, it may be difficult for them to accept a new person.
  • Coping with demands of others. In blended families planning family events can get complicated, especially when there are custody considerations to take into account. Children may grow frustrated that vacations, parties, or weekend trips now require complicated arrangements to include their new stepsiblings.
Wow, seems to me that there is a piece of each of these issues right now for us--awareness is half the battle, I suppose.  And the answers--well certainly not easy, but eventually I think doable if everyone is committed to making it work. I think the foremost response is open communication & building trust.  The authors have this to say with regard to that:

The way a blended family communicates says a lot about the level of trust between family members. When communication is clear, open, and frequent, there are fewer opportunities for misunderstanding and more possibilities for connection, whether it is between parent and child, step-parent and stepchild, or between stepsiblings.
Uncertainty and worry about family issues often comes from poor communication. It might be helpful to set up some ‘house rules’ for communication within a blended family, such as:
  • Listen respectfully to one another.
  • Address conflict positively.
  • Establish an open and nonjudgmental atmosphere.
  • Do things together – games, sports, activities.
  • Show affection to one another comfortably.
And finally, "create family rituals & establish routines. Decide on meaningful family rituals and plan to incorporate at least one into your blended family. They might include Sunday visits to the beach, a weekly game night, or special ways to celebrate a family birthday. Establishing regular family meals, for example, offers a great chance for you to talk and bond with your children and stepchildren as well as encourage healthy eating habits."  We've been doing family meals for about a year now--every Sunday that Xing Fu has his children, we've come over or they've come to our house for dinner.  I think it has helped us a great deal to have that ritual & I certainly hope that it continues into the future.  So we seem to be on the right track in many ways but it will be an uphill climb that will be a challenge for everyone involved.  

Strange to look back on this blog history & see how much has changed for all of us in the 2 1/2 years we've been together--it's been worth it!

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