Therapeutic Interventions

All family members share feelings about and reactions to the formation of the blended family at family meetings. (1, 2)

List strategies for coping with negative feelings related to adjusting to a blended family. (3, 4, 5)

1. Assign the family to hold weekly family meetings where open and considerate discussion of individual feelings and reactions to the blended family is encouraged.

2. Review issues discussed in the family meetings during family or couple counseling sessions; offer congratulations for resolved issues and guidance in areas that remain of concern.

3. Provide strategies for the family to cope effectively with contentious issues (e.g., listen with empathy, discuss problems when calm, brainstorm for possible solutions).

4. Invite each family member to record in a journal incidents of successful strategies used to

3. Implement techniques of effective communication that involve empathetic listening and clearly stated points of view. (6, 7)

4. Verbalize realistic expectations for the newly formed blended family. (8, 9)

cope with negative or hurt feelings (or ask the family to complete the "Healing Hurt Feelings" activity from the Parenting Skills Homework Planner by Knapp).

5. Assist the family in establishing ground rules for the arguments and disagreements that will inevitably occur (e.g., listen to the other's point of view, stay with the current issue, avoid name-calling).

6. Teach each family member to clearly state individual points of view using the "I statement" format (e.g., "I feel . . . When . .

. Because . . .") which expresses personal feelings and reactions to a situation rather then blaming personal feelings upon another person (see Parent Effectiveness Training by Gordon).

7. Present the technique of active listening (e.g., listening with empathy and understanding) and role play how to use it during family discussions.

8. Discuss common myths about blended families (e.g., new family will quickly adjust, the blended family will be the same as the first family, stepparent will be immediately accepted,) and help the family set more realistic expectations.

9. Invite the family to set short-term goals that are specific and attainable (e.g., eat dinner together three times per week, hold a one-hour family meeting

5. Negotiate and define family roles and responsibilities during a family meeting. (10, 11)

6. Identify and establish family rules and procedures with input from all family members. (12, 13)

7. Resolve custody, visitation, and other legal issues affecting the family. (14, 15)

once per week) in order to avoid unrealistic expectations.

10. Instruct the family to list all the jobs and duties necessary for effective functioning of the blended family at their weekly meeting and indicate the person responsible for each assignment.

11. Assign the family to define family roles by listing each family member and describing in writing the role they play (or complete the "Unique Roles in Our Blended Family" activity from the Parenting Skills Homework Planner by Knapp).

12. Assist the family in establishing basic procedures that are essential for efficient family functioning (e.g., the morning routine, family meals, laundry); encourage the family to spend time practicing these procedures until they become routine.

13. Assist the family in formulating household rules (e.g., curfew, table manners, homework, dress code) using the process of brainstorming all regulations necessary for harmonious coexistence, consolidating the ideas into a few general limits, stating each rule in a positive form, obtaining consensus on the final list of rules, and agreeing that rules can be changed only at family meetings.

14. Encourage the parents and stepparents to work together to establish custody and visitation arrangements that are conducive

Agree to prioritize the children's welfare when making decisions which affect the family. (16, 17)

9. Support each other in child management issues and eliminate resistance, manipulation, and competition from children and former spouse(s). (18, 19, 20)

to the emotional stability of the children involved.

15. Agree to mediate disputes and differences between former spouses to reduce the level of conflict and hostility and increase the spirit of cooperation.

16. Encourage the adult couple to reassure the children about their personal security and to express awareness and empathy for their fears, feelings, and reactions to change.

17. Ask the parents to share any immediate plans for change involving custody, visitation, or possible moves with all affected family members.

18. Advise the parents to avoid power struggles in the blended family by setting limits with controlled choices (e.g. "Would you rather clean your room on Saturday or Sunday?") and using contingency management strategies that make privileges dependent on responsible behavior (e.g., "You may watch television as soon as you homework is completed.").

19. Teach the parents the importance of reinforcing children's positive behavior, administering discipline to all children in an even-handed and logical manner, and defusing manipulative efforts from children or former spouses.

20. Help the parents to avoid overparenting and to encourage independent functioning by determining who owns a

Seek information or professional guidance in the area of child management in the context of a blended family. (21, 22)

Negotiate and agree on strategies for cooperative disciplining all of the children in the blended family. (23, 24, 25)

12. Utilize techniques of positive discipline to address problem and allowing that person to solve the problem alone or with guidance if necessary.

21. Refer parents to a child management parenting class (e.g., Becoming a Love and Logic Parent by Fay, Cline, and Fay).

22. Assign parents and stepparents to read Living in Step (Roosevelt and Lofas) for an understanding of how various family members react to the formation of a blended family.

23. Teach the parents to arrive at a mutually satisfying approach to specific discipline issues by discussing the problem privately, sharing individual perspectives, brainstorming solutions, and determining an approach which is satisfying to both parties.

24. Instruct the parents to use logical consequences designed to teach their children a more appropriate behavior and to eliminate overly punitive reactions to negative behavior; explain that consequences can be delayed briefly to allow the couple to discuss and agree upon an appropriate intervention.

25. Encourage the parents to refrain from interfering when a natural consequence (e.g., refusing to eat lunch results in getting hungry before dinner) will teach their children to be more responsible.

26. Teach the parents to offer frequent encouragement and all child behavior concerns. (26, 27, 28)

13. Encourage positive and appropriate relationships among the stepsiblings. (29, 30)

14. The stepsiblings engage in activities that create affection for and bonding with one another. (31, 32)

descriptive praise when recognizing positive behavior and to use constructive feedback and guidance when behavior requires redirection.

27. Encourage the parents to prioritize the discipline issues of concern to the family and to address them one by one rather than trying to solve all the behavior problems at once.

28. Advise parents to remain alert and intimately involved in the lives and activities of all of their children living or not living in the blended family; explain that careful monitoring of the children's behavior, although not always appreciated, is an essential responsibility of parents and stepparents.

29. Instruct the adult couple to promote positive interaction among the siblings and stepsiblings by initiating family games, recognizing attempts to engage in mutual activities, and encouraging discussions during meals and family gatherings.

30. Caution the adult couple to avoid pushing the stepsiblings to constantly interact before they have been given time to adjust to the newly formed family unit.

31. Instruct the stepsiblings to brainstorm activities appropriate for family interaction, choose one or more activities, and report on the process at the next family meeting or counseling session.

15. Set clear boundaries for privacy and sexual taboos among the blended family members. (33, 34)

16. Participate in activities that involve both total family and one to one interactions among family members. (35)

17. Model positive, supportive interaction with all family members. (36, 37)

18. Express and record progress in the development of

32. Help the stepsiblings plan for doing a personal favor that expresses love and caring for parent(s) and/or stepparent(s) (e.g., cooking a meal, babysitting for a younger sibling).

33. Advise the parents to set up appropriate sleeping and activity centers so that all siblings have privacy and a place for their personal belongings.

34. Assign the family to discuss appropriate intersibling behavior and respect for one another at a family meeting requesting input from all family members.

35. Encourage the family to plan for a weekly family outing at each family meeting and to enlist the participation of each family member in the preparation.

36. Discuss with the adult couple the negative impact on the children of their demonstrative romantic or sexualized interactions in the children's presence (e.g., jealousy, embarrassment, loyalty conflicts) and encourage them to respect the siblings' sensitivity to this behavior.

37. Stress to the adult couple the importance of modeling regard and respect for one another and for the children; role play appropriate interactions during sensitive or stressful circumstances (e.g., stepchild's refusal to cooperate).

38. Ask each family member to list the benefits of developing close positive feelings toward all members of the blended family. (38, 39)

positive relationships within the blended family in a personal journal and identify methods of improving family interactions.

39. Assign each family member to describe their family prior to the formation of the blended family, currently, and five years in the future; share these descriptions during a family meeting or a counseling session.

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