Our guest author today writes a thought-provoking article about the structure of a family. We generally think about family as Mom + Dad + kids, including those blood relations, but the frequency of divorce has made fundamental changes in the modern family.
It’s not as if the definition of family has changed. But, the structure in many households definitely has changed. A traditional family used to consist of a husband and a wife with their children. The extended family consisted of aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.
That world seems to have faded a bit. Many household structures are created by broken families who find each other and try to mend. This brings with it many “Steps.” One child in the middle can possibly have four sets of grandparents, three sets of siblings and a slew of aunts and uncles that twist and bind in a huge family tree that seems to have no roots.
Dealing with issues can be difficult at times. When a problem emerges, who is going to handle it? Sometimes, families merge and assume respective roles with no glitch. In other families, there are issues from the start, normally in place because of baggage. Baggage for children is particularly complex to work through.
The children’s baggage can come from two very far extremes. Let’s look at a single mother who is dating and finds someone with whom she would like to get more serious. The ex-husband might have been a great father and the children don’t particularly appreciate the new man in their lives. On the other extreme, the ex-husband might have been a terrible father and ruined any trust someone new might try to build. There are many complex situations and these two extremes certainly don’t fit them all. But, there are always going to be issues no matter what the situation might be.
When issues arise, they have the potential to get heated. When that happens, it’s because of a few small landmines that could have been removed before anything went awry. It’s not as if you can see every problem that will come your way. But, putting together a general game plan is the way to remove some of the landmines before anyone steps on any of them.
First of all, you have to learn how to communicate. I know that sounds clinical as if a psychologist is trying to hand you a brochure you probably will never read. But, it’s true when you think about it. In most courting rituals, the conversations are light hearted. The communication you have established with the new love in your life has not been challenged by real life episodes that take place when families merge and personalities might start to collide.
This is very important! There are trigger words that you are going to have to learn to avoid. Think about what you say before you say it and make sure you dodge those words that are loaded with sensitive issues. Literally, use the cliché and count to ten before you respond to anything that could possibly erupt. You’ll learn your own trigger words in the first few arguments you encounter. Hopefully, you don’t blow each other up before you have a chance to make a good go of it.
Second of all, inform each other. There are always going to be issues that arise out of nowhere. But, be honest and forthcoming about anything that you see or even can predict. If you know that a possible issue lingers around the corner, speak up before it has a chance to rear its ugly head. You’ll come through most problems much stronger because your way of dealing with issues is a major part of how you are perceived.
That’s the third most important thing. You and your new loved one might have the most loving eyes for each other. But, the day you deal with a problem together is the day all that might change. The one you love might no longer look at you the same way because of how you choose to handle a problem. Keeping the love alive is only part of the problem. Keeping the trust intact is as huge of a task as any.
When you learn to communicate and effectively handle issues as one, there’s nothing a new family can’t do to keep itself together. Most problems take place because of the lack of communication. Those problems get worse because of the inability to learn how to communicate. And that’s a real shame because so many families need each other and are perfect for each other, but they never stood a chance because they didn't learn how to give themselves an honest try.
Michael Allen is the author of When You Miss Me, a children’s book for families who are experiencing the difficulty of separation. There is a magical moment children can learn to turn times you spend apart into times you spend together, http://michaelallenonline.com/whenyoumissme.