Blended families are sometimes tough to unite. One day you are two separate families, and after a brief marriage ceremony, a few bites of cake… the next thing you know, you’re considered one family. Well- at least on the outside.
It’s difficult for adults and kids to get used to the newly blended family – new stepparents, new step-siblings, and new home – quite a lot of changes in a short time. By using photography and scrapbooking, you can creatively begin merging your family into one unit.
Plan Fun Activities at Home
Schedule informal, fun activities for family members. Plan events around the holidays such as decorating the house, dying Easter eggs, and carving pumpkins. Family meals are also a good time to get to know each other with cookie decorating, fondue dipping, and grilling out. Even washing the cars together (with a little unrestricted hose squirting) can be fun.
Plan Interesting Outings
Take your blended family on short trips: hiking in the mountains, an afternoon in the park, or a short weekend at the beach. Short trips allow family members to experience brief positive events without a great deal of pressure or high expectations. Break off into groups – all girls/all guys, or younger ones with one parent and older ones with the other. This allows kids to get to know their new step-siblings and stepparents to get to know them.
Take Candid Photos during Activities
Hauling everyone to a portrait studio is a traumatic event for a newly blended family. Sometimes kids feel that it’s disloyal to the other biological parent if they are photographed as a family with the new stepparent.
While on these short outings or having fun times at home, take out your camera and shoot candid shots of the activities. Let kids be silly, make faces, and enjoy the camera. After the kids get used to your new camera obsession, you will receive a couple of smiles as you aim the camera in their direction.
Celebrate Any Event
Celebrate each child and adult’s birthday as a family event. Recognize all holidays, even the silly ones (Ground Hog Day, Chocolate Day, Belly Laugh Day??) No, I’m not making these up – check your internet for more unusual or bizarre celebrations. Don’t forget the camera!
Put Photos around the House
Choose some of the best shots and frame them. Put these photos in prominent locations around the house. It’s also fun to create a photo wall. Put you and your new spouse in the middle, his kids on one side, and her kids on the other. You can use old photos for this – of the kids at different stages of their life – as long as these photos do not include your ex-spouse. Use the opposing wall to start putting blended photos of your group, as you catch step-siblings together.
Also, if you experience a little resistance, you can always purchase a frame and “put” the kids together. Example: with four kids, you would purchase a frame with four photo inserts. Put an individual photo of each child in each slot. Viola! You have all four kids together in one photo frame!
Use scrapbooking to create a family album
Take all of these photos and start recording your family’s life. Make the album fun with stickers, funny thoughts, and details of each event. If any child expresses interest while you are working on the album, let them write comments, next to the photos, in their own handwriting.
Label the album, “Our Family” and leave the album in a well-trafficked area of your home. If kids stop and look through the album, ignore them, and let them explore seeing their new blended family. Add to the album regularly, and continuing blending your family into a cohesive unit in these fun, creative manner.
Shirley Cress Dudley is a licensed professional counselor with a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Counseling, and a master’s degree in Education. She has a passion for helping blended families grow strong and be successful, and her book, Blended Family Advice, has been touted as the ultimate must-read for couples contemplating or undergoing such change.