As summer turns to fall, so many of us shift into setting some routines. School has started, along with afterschool activities, which have us following the family
calendar more than during the schedule-free days of summer. Cooler weather also gets us into the mindset of slowing down, as if we’re getting ready for a winter hibernation of sorts. While it’s temping to settle into routines of school, homework,
and activities, don’t forget to schedule family fun into the routines as well! Why is family fun so important? The Family Unit Taking time for fun offers time to bond. This is especially important for families with busy schedules when everyone is going in different directions. Family fun days build “common experiences,” which lead to closer relationships. For stepfamilies, it’s really important to find time to do fun things as a family unit. Shared custody means kids are coming and going throughout the week, so grabbing this time together is imperative to building bonds.
Additionally, there are many things that can cause tension within a blended family, so stepcouples need to be more intentional about building in family time. Stepsiblings need something to bond over, plus having fun helps strengthen the stepparent-stepchild relationship as well. When everyone is having fun, then they let their guard down and allow the other person “in” a bit more. Having common experiences also helps build bridges between family members. When we have shared an activity, it lays a foundation to build on in the future. Plus, it gives everyone something to talk about where all family members can contribute to the conversation. One last thought, an easy way to build compassion in the family is to make sure everyone goes to each other’s events. Showing support for your stepsibling will make the other child feel loved and that small gesture can be the key to smoothing out the relationship or building bridges towards a relationship. The Couple When parents/stepparents see their family members getting along, it eases the tension between the couple as well. This is especially true for blended families where each parent/stepparent brought their own children into the relationship. Frequently, the home can feel like “his” and “her” family units who happen to live together. Family fun days help everyone feel more like a united group. Instead of pushing the bonding to happen, having fun together naturally allows for increased feelings of togetherness. The Stepparent-Stepchild Relationship So many blended families struggle due to the strained stepparent-stepchild relationship. There are dozens of reasons why this particular relationship is a challenge. Some of the top issues include: 1. The stepchild struggling with loyalty issues
2. The stepparent didn’t connect with the child before trying to parent him
3. There is distrust in a new relationship
4. There is a push-pull for the spouse’s/biological parent’s attention There are many more reasons, but this list gives you a quick peek into the numerous struggles of stepfamly dynamics. So, how would having fun help? It allows both the stepchild and the stepparent time to get to know each other. It also allows them to be on neutral territory for activities, so it’s a fresh experience for both individuals which they can build upon later. Let’s say a blended family goes to pick pumpkins. The stepmom makes a point of wandering the pumpkin patch with her stepdaughter. Stepmom can ask questions like, “Do you want a tall one or a short round one?” or “Would you like a pumpkin with smooth skin or bumpy skin?” These questions are not about personal information, so it’s easy for her stepdaughter to relax and have fun with her stepmom. The next step in building the relationship could be carving their pumpkins together. It’s a simple, fun activity for stepmom and stepdaughter to enjoy without the pressure of trying so hard to make things “okay.” Don’t forget to bake those pumpkin seeds for snacks later!
The Kids Whether your family is a nuclear or a blended family, there are times when the kids don’t get along. It could be due to differences in personalities or interests. In stepfamilies, while the parents may be in love, the kids may have a hard time even tolerating each other. Scheduling activities everyone can enjoy helps. One fun family experience could be a “Kids vs Adults” race in a corn maze. This encourages teamwork for the kids and beating their adults is a great incentive to work together! If that’s even “too much” for the kids, then back off a bit and find an activity everyone can do individually, but together (pumpkin carving would work!). Perhaps a “family theme” might help?
As you can see, making time for family fun can improve many different family relationships. It is a time for everyone to relax and ultimately build closer bonds. Jumping in a pile of fall leaves, apple picking, baking, or pumpkin carving...whatever it is, make time to relax and enjoy the season as a family. You’ll have memories to treasure forever! If you're finding yourself struggling with stepfamily parenting issues, it's time to make a change. There are strategies that can help relieve your stress and bring harmony to your home, and I'd love to share those with you. Simply click here to book a complimentary discovery call today.