How to Manage Siblings in Blended Families

Ask what you can do together, to build a new structure that fits your new family. By creating a "new normal," you and your spouse will allow children to let go of the past and be co-creators, forming something new that works for your family.
01/27/2016 05:06 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2017
Caucasian girls drinking milk with curled straws at table
Caucasian girls drinking milk with curled straws at table

Not too long ago, I was at dinner with some friends and they were all talking about their children. One of our friends made a most interesting remark, when he said, he was raising his wife's son and somebody else was raising his.

This made me think about all of the different family structures we have today and how siblings from these different arrangements can find their way to each other, in relationships. Today's family consists of many different structures. There is no longer any one face called family, but rather family types made up of blood-siblings, half-siblings, and step-siblings.

Here are some steps that you can take, to ensure that your children are given the best chance for peace and harmony within their immediate and extended families, to secure a healthy and vital life together:

1. Communicate. Sit down with your mate and, using my empathic process, discuss what your different styles of discipline, traditions, and family expectations are. Ask what you can do together, to build a new structure that fits your new family. By creating a "new normal," you and your spouse will allow children to let go of the past and be co-creators, forming something new that works for your family.

Also, consider that you, as well as your children, are in a transition period. Thus, to transform your relationship into a family, it may be necessary in the beginning to spend a little alone-time with your biological children, so that they know their place is secure in your heart. Remember that this is the first time your children will have to share you with someone else's children -- siblings that they neither asked for, nor necessarily wanted. Because children of blended families have no options about new siblings, they may feel out of control. So to help them assert feelings of stability and security, may require more parental time.

2. Know the rules. Using my empathic process, sit down with all siblings contained in your new family and actively listen to your children's feelings and thoughts about their new family. Ask them what they think the appropriate rules should be within your family unit. Divide time for discussion equally, between parents and siblings, giving each child ample time to express his feelings without defense. And finally, bring the conversation together, so that each member of the family is invested in both the rules and the consequences for family management and discipline. This is how you proactively build a new family model, with new ground rules including routine, structure, boundaries, and mutual respect.

3. Create a family identity. By creating a new family identity, you connect each member of the family to a future together. Let siblings share chores so that they have to depend on each other to accomplish them. Take family trips together, where games, outings, and activities -- such as boating, camping, biking, and hiking -- depend on cooperation and collaboration. Participate as a family in all sibling activities. Go as a unit to ball games, recitals, and school plays. Build your home team and create new memories, filled with family times spent together. This is how siblings become part of a family identity and feel that they belong.

4. Ask for help when needed. It is important to recognize when it is necessary to get outside guidance. Each parent knows his child the best. You know his history and how that history influences his behavior.

Therefore, it is important to look for signs of distress such as:
• behavior problems at home and or in school;
• changes in sleep habits;
• weight gain or loss;
• threats of suicide;
• changes in friendships;
• regressive behavior such as bedwetting;
• biting nails or hair pulling;
• sadness or depression.

Consulting a professional can go a long way towards restoring your family's health and well-being. In the end, remember that your family is transforming, so move from your heart, with compassion and empathy.