Traditions and Rituals for Step Families

If you are in a stepfamily and struggling for some sense of family identity, don’t despair. You can enhance your feeling of togetherness with the use of family rituals and traditions.

Rituals allow nontraditional and traditional families to form collective identities, facilitate healing, celebrate life changes, and pass on expressions of beliefs. Rituals include daily activities, even if they are taken for granted, such as getting ready for bed, eating at the table, and watching a television program. They can also be much more elaborate, although not necessarily more symbolic, such as weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs, graduations, and religious ceremonies.

Regardless of their format, rituals are an important aspect of our social lives, and parents can utilize this hidden resource in developing more intimate families. Family therapists have used the concept of rituals to help families that have been hurt by past actions toward one another or by an unexpected traumatic situation. Wedding vows have been restated by stepfamilies and have included all family members, including the children. Letters of anger and sadness have been written to unknown mothers and fathers and then ceremonially burned or destroyed as an act of saying good-bye. Marriage bands have been melted down or thrown into the middle of lakes to break emotional ties and symbolize the need for an emotional divorce, even after families have already been legally divorced. Again, how one performs these valuable tools is not as important as finding a way to signify a gain, loss, or both in the lives of families.

Often the most powerful rituals and traditions are the ones that come up naturally in a family. Forcing a tradition, in a stepfamily especially, is a guaranteed way to create more disharmony. Keep an eye on routines and activities that bio and nonbio family members seem to enjoy. What causes anxiety and frustration to leave the home and fosters a fun, creative, or relaxed atmosphere? Do more of those things.

If you still are unable to come up with a family ritual or tradition, have a family meeting or kitchen table discussion about what members of the family would like to do on a regular basis. You might be surprised what ideas come up. If reasonable, try these suggestions until you find one (or two) that fit your newly formed family.

As children get older and situations change, rituals and traditions may leave or no longer be of interest. If they are not related to deep spiritual values, allow them to pass and look for new ones to arrive. Rituals and traditions are there to serve your family and not the other way around.

Special Free Report: “Balancing Love and Limits in the NonTraditional Family”

by Ron Huxley, LMFT

Balancing love and limits in discipline is one of the most 

challenging aspects of parenting. Love and limits refer to 

different styles of parenting with love representative of a 

“permissive” or child centered style of parenting and limits 

representative of “authoritative” or parent centered style. Each 

style is based on a set of beliefs, in the parent, about what it 

means to be a good parent. No one wants to be a bad parent. 

They adopt a style that they feel best meets the goal of 

parenting to raise children that are able to manage themselves 

and function productively in the world. 

Get some tools to rebuild your family today…click here!

Adoption Parties’ Help Form New Families:

According to the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), at one recent activity day event in Kent 34 out of 54 children found possible links to new foster parents.

The events are designed for people who are already well advanced in the adoption process.

They get to meet children at play while the youngsters enjoy face, painting, climbing and other activities.

The children’s foster parents or social workers attend the event to support them.

It is part of a scheme to help speed up the process and find adoptive parents for those children who may be more difficult to place.

More than 6,000 children are going through the adoption process with only 1,800 prospective parents approved and waiting for a child.

Dream Parenting: Asking Ourselves Tough Questions

In this Dream Parenting series so far we have explored some introductory ideas, such as “Doing More of What Works” and “Finding An Audience of Appreciation.” These two ideas provide a foundation to doing some deeper dream parenting work. It is time now to ask ourselves some tough parenting questions. 

The first question is “Why did you become a parent in the first place?”

This is an important question to ask because it gives you a glimpse into your motivations and drives. It allows you to recognize why certain triggers create explosions of anger and frustration in your home. If parents were truly honest, many would answer that they didn’t want or weren’t ready for parenting. They may have come to parenting by accident or coercion or because they thought they should. 

I personally came from the generation that believed you should marry young and start your family right away. I am not blaming anyone since I made that decision myself. However, I realize now how immature I was when I started my family and how many challenges I have had to overcome from making that decision. I also recognize that I am a much younger grandfather and can actually chase after my two grandsons without risking physical damage!

Other parents may have started their family in hopes that the child would fulfill a need in the parents life. Parents own loss or emptiness in relationships or a lack of a sense of purpose can get projected into our children placing a huge disadvantage on to them. 

Nontraditional families, such as step parents, grandparents raising their grandchildren or adoptive/foster parents start their families after some sort of trauma has occurred. Rescue fantasies or beliefs that “love is all you need” will quickly dissappear when the behavioral problems begin. 

Asking this question about our original motivations make us honest for the hard work we need to do next. It puts us in perspective to deal with the pros and cons of our reasons for parenting in the first place and provides a clear path for ourselves and our families.

The second question is “Do you really want to change?”

The fact that we may have made a poor decision to parents does not alter the reality that we have to now manage that decision. Living in a parenting state of delusion that things should be different or resentment about why we parented in the first place will not aid us in making necessary changes. We now have to ask ourselvs if we really want to have the dream family we deserve to have or are we going to keep doing what we have always done that no longer works for us. 

Perhaps you had the right motivations about parenting and the timing and circumstances were ideal to start your family and yet you are still having family problems. That doesn’t make the second question any easier. Change often means pain and the majority of people avoid it for that reason. 

This question is important because it means work. It means feeling uncomfortable. It requies repairing some broken areas in our lives. The good news is that change is possible. 

If you answer “yes” to this question, you must then ask a the second part: What will be your first step to building your dream family? It won’t happen over night so what one thing will you start doing differently today to start the change process? What resources, support, and information can you make a plan to engage in right away? 

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