Jewel Tankard’s Blended Family Tips
Thicker Than Water star Jewel Tankard knows a thing or two about the dynamics of blending families. She had one daughter and her husband, Ben Tankard, had four before they wed. In this JET exclusive, Jewel offers some insight on solving conflict between newfound siblings.
When Ben and I first got married, I was anxious about blending our families. On one hand, I felt blessed because Ben’s children, who were fairly young at the time, were excited to have me as their other mom. Additionally, my then 3-year-old daughter Cyrene was very happy to finally say ‘daddy.’ Her biological father was not active in her life. Still, I knew there would be challenges. Combining households meant managing a handful of temperaments and melding rules.
My instincts were right. Once the honeymoon period wore off, conflict began to show up between the children. Formerly 100-percent only child, Cyrene was not used to sharing. And Ben’s children, who were used to having siblings in the household, were aware of the financial differences between households and kept tabs. Hearing, “you have this and we don’t,” became a familiar phrase.
Troubleshooting was an exercise in patience. There are times as a parent that you just want the fussing to stop, but hushing isn’t always helpful. I quickly realized the importance of addressing the issue and not the argument. You see, the fight is about a toy or object, but the issue is about feeling that everyone is equally treated and valued.
Every situation is different, but I’ve found putting yourself in the child’s shoes is an essential element to framing your intervention. How would you feel in their situation? What would you need? At the core, everyone wants to be understood, but especially a child. They are still developing their self-esteem. Moreover, all parties want to know that they belong in this “new family,” and aren’t simply houseguests.
Here are some tips on how to defuse dust-up without doing damage (i.e. playing favorites):
1) Acknowledge that “we are all a family” and everyone is important.
2) Set ground rules on how communication in the discussion will proceed (for example, one person speaks at a time, no name-calling).
3) Ask kids to share their grievances and assess. Encourage them to share their thoughts without attacking character, only behavior. Ask children what they think is fair, particularly if they were in the other person’s shoes. Come to a resolution. Next, ask the child/children to repeat in their own words what they should do differently that is fair to all parties.
4) Congratulate the children on taking responsibility for their individual actions.
5) Give affirmations and praise to all parties. Have children share in doing the same.
It is key that we teach our children to express their feelings, affirm a sense of fairness and establish the importance of treating each other with love and respect. Healthy communication is the key. You can have a successful blended family, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be a perfect family. No family is perfect, so give yourself a break and enjoy the ride!
YOUR TURN: How do you keep the peace in your blended family? Let us know in the comments!