Blended Families, Cul-de-Sacs and Common Sense

Blended Families, Cul-de-Sacs and Common Sense

Picture your neighborhood cul-de-sac and you'll have a vision of family living.  A small huddle of homes with manicured lawns, barbecue parties and smiling neighbors.  Kids play hopscotch and ride their bikes in the street.  There's a sense of security and safety.

Safety was one of the primary benefits that many city planners leaned on as they've developed our neighborhoods since the '50s and '60s.  Common sense dictated that moving "mini" neighborhoods off the main flow of traffic would protect children from speeding cars.  The cul-de-sac was the solution to the majority of traffic accidents involving children.  Makes sense…Common Sense…right?

Unfortunately, common sense doesn't always pan out the way we want it to.  

Kim and I were recently talking with clients that we had coached as they were "blending" their families.  At one point in the conversation, the new husband exclaimed, "This stepfamily stuff just isn't common sense!  We probably would have done the opposite of many of the things we learned."

Common Sense Isn't Common

It seems that "common sense" can be deceiving!  

Take the cul-de-sac.  The actual research shows over the past 5 decades that the most common traffic accident involving young children is caused by a vehicle backing out of a residential driveway and striking a child.  In addition, the statistics reveal that cul-de-sacs are the most common place for this to occur!  This is so clear in the research that many towns across the US are now actually banning the installation of cul-de-sacs.

Common sense can fail us in stepfamily life just like it has in our neighborhood planning.  We all want to create safety in our blended families.  But just like city planners, we go about installing our figurative cul-de-sacs and we're confounded by the results.  

We've helped step-couples for over 16 years and we hear this same story again and again.  Those "common sense" choices that seem right, often don't deliver the desired result.  The reality is that many of the unique challenges stepfamilies face require unique solutions.  Common sense never leads to unique solutions.  

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"Common Sense" Follies

Here's the top three "common sense" follies for stepfamilies:

Parental Authority

Common sense suggests, "If step-parents want to lead their step-kids well, then they need to establish authority in the home quickly."

The reality is that taking too much authority too soon with step-kids will sabotage your relationship with them.  The unique solution is for step-parents to spend their energy on connecting with their step-kids.  What step-parents really want is influence…not necessarily authority.  Click here to read more about the difference.

Family Time

Common sense tells us, "If we want to be connected as a family, then we need lots of family time."

The reality is that tension, pressure and stress is highest when everyone in the stepfamily is together.  The unique solution is to focus on nurturing all the one-on-one relationships within the family and only doing "family time" in small doses.  Taking this approach will help the kids feel secure in their relationship with their parent and helps them relax when the rest of the family is around.

Kids Are Adaptable

Common sense says, "Kids are adaptable.  They can quickly adjust to our new life and they'll be fine once they get through the transition."

The reality is that kids lack the maturity and coping skills necessary to help them adjust to the big changes that come along with blending families.  Many step-couples expect the kids to quickly "get on board", but the unique solution is to discover their perspective rather than expecting them to accept yours. Kids experience losses when stepfamilies form.  These losses create fear and anger which often lead to resentments.  To help them move forward, you'll need to find out what they are experiencing on this journey and empathetically help them process all those losses.

Find Out What You Don't Know

Just like every other step-couple, you want to create a fun, loving and safe home for your blended family.  You'll need the right strategies to accomplish that.  Don't rely on common sense to guide you.  As the old saying goes, "You don't know what you don't know."  Reach out for some help today and find out what you may not already know.

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QUESTION:  What "common sense" decisions have given results that have left you baffled?  Leave a comment below…

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