Finding love after divorce and entering a new relationship or marriage can be a beautiful experience. It can also bring new challenges and conflicts – especially when combining children and family members into a new family system. Did you know that it’s possible to seek the help of a mediator when creating a blended family parenting agreement?

Mother and children putting fruit into a smoothie blender; blended family parenting dynamics

Most blended families wait a year or two before pursuing mediation, as discussing legal matters (like custody and finances) can feel overwhelming and add to the pressure of the transition. Once the family is settled in, it can be extremely helpful to enlist experts to guide the future of the blended family, and of course, address any legalities needed (like a parenting plan). 

Problem Solving Strategies for Life

As career family mediators, we’ve had extensive training and years of experience as to how best to approach problems, and the proper steps to follow when trying to resolve them. There are so many emotions, both positive and negative, that surface within blended families that may not present in non-blended families. 

Maintaining a balance of expectations for the adults, versus the expectations of the children, cannot be highlighted enough. Most adults still struggle with solving problems in an efficient manner, so it’s really asking a lot for children, teens and young adults to not only identify problems, but also to know how to approach and resolve them in a healthy manner. 

Thinking back to when I was in my teens or early twenties, the smallest problem felt like the end of the world. Our worlds are very small when we are young. Therefore, it is vital that the parents in a blended family maintain perspective regarding the age and capabilities of the children in your family. I grew up in a blended family, and boy did we struggle (we still do, and I am nearly 50)! 

A skilled mediator can help the blended family become stronger and more unified, laying the foundation for parenting plans, finances and more.

Blended Family Values

Throughout the blended family mediation process, we are always working to create and provide the family a tested and proven method in which to have hard conversations in a safe structured manner, without the fear of being met with retaliation or anger. 

First, we work at teaching listening skills to help participants understand one another better, and encourage participants to remain respectful, even when being honest. 

Next, it’s also important to open the discussion around any cultural differences within the blended family. Each family member should understand and respect the different cultures and different family backgrounds that exist in their blended family. These differences can affect family dynamics, and should be considered during the negotiation process.

Finally, when discussing core values, we approach the topic in the same way a business approaches such a topic. What is most important to the family as a whole? Once there are 3-5 agreed upon core values, it is important that everyone commits to following those values at all times, both within and outside of the household.

Once these skills are learned and roles are understood, the blended family can move forward with addressing specific issues, laying out plans, and setting common goals for the future. 

How Mediation Can Help Blended Families

In conclusion, it’s important for blended families to understand how to resolve conflicts rather than resorting to aggression or avoidance. It’s equally important to understand, and teach our children, that conflict in and of itself is not bad, or negative.

Conflict will always be part of our lives. However, it’s how that conflict is handled that makes all the difference in the world. And teaching our children to understand that and respect the process in resolving conflicts in a healthier manner is a gift that will support them for the rest of their lives.

Have you recently entered a new relationship and begun blending your respective families? Contact West Coast Family Mediation Center for a free consultation to learn how a holistic approach to mediation can help strengthen your family unit.

by: Jennifer Segura, J.D., CDFA®

Jennifer Segura with west coast family mediation center

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