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Seven Tips for Blended Families

Welcome back to Consider Yourself Hugged! Click here to listen to Episode 145. OR click YouTube below to watch! (***Disclaimer: We provide these notes as a skeleton for the show - nothing fancy 😄)

Last week we chatted about the emotions elicited by the recent Publix commercial about blended families. I still watch it the entire way through every time it comes on! Today, I'll share with you 7 tips from a recent article posted by the Gottman Institute. I'll throw in my successes and not successes and encourage those of you who are in these families that have their own unique challenges. Thanks for joining!

  1. Set Realistic Expectations: Allow yourself to be ok that life won't always be perfect.

  2. Communication is the Key: Conflict is inevitable.

Here's the communication tool I mentioned, FIRR:

Facts: When I saw you upset with....

Impact: I got so anxious because my mind goes wild and my heart hurts

Respect: You have told me you want to be an involved stepdad and I love that

Request: When you feel yourself getting upset, would you come to me so we can talk about it and parent together?

a. Criticism

b. Contempt

c. Defensiveness

d. Stonewalling

3. Parent Together, not Separately: This one can be so hard! Parenting together looks different for different families.

4. Create Your Own Unique Family System: LOVE this from the article:

One way to think of the difference between blended and nuclear families is that blended families are like a crockpot meal, while nuclear families are like a quick skillet sauté. Purely biological families are seared together with fierce devotion and love, yet stepfamilies stew together slowly, taking time to bond and become unshakeable.

Isn't this a beautiful way to look at it? It can take many years to get here, and our family finally did!

5. Stay connected to your partner: Take time for dates and just to connect with one another.

6. Practice Patience and Understanding: You are both on the same team! Allow each parent to be who they are. It takes time to earn trust.

7. Stay the course and Don't Give Up: Get the help you need. Find a mentor. Read books. Get counseling. Get outside perspectives. Decide what you will and won't accept. Grow as a person.

Michelle's Tips

The best advice I ever heard was to be aware of how you great a child especially a step child when they walk in the room. Let your eyes say you are happy to see them so they always feel welcome and wanted.

Gracie's Tips

  • If co-parenting is involved, frequent and respectful communication between all adults is a must to prevent triangulation and unnecessary conflict while promoting consistency and clear boundaries and expectations. Realistically, while this type of communication is not always possible due to emotional baggage or unhealthy family members, it is still worth it if only to model healthy behaviors to our kids.

  • Something else to remember if co-parenting is involved is that every person's perspective is valid...for them. Trying to negate the other person's perspective, directly or indirectly, is usually unproductive. This does not mean that we allow unhealthy or unsafe behaviors to perpetuate just because someone thinks that those behaviors are acceptable. Rather, responding to those behaviors in a way that is contextualized by "I'm right and you're wrong" is not likely to be effective. 

  • Recognize that our identities are shaped by our systems. Being a part of a blended family can be very tough for kids to feel comfortable being themselves and how they fit into the family system; especially as they are becoming their own persons! Having as much an inclusive "We" dynamic as possible is very helpful. Some examples are: being a part of the child's life and activities (such as sports activities) as much as possible (and allowed) even when it's not a designated custody/visitation weekend or having the child be a part of the regular and mundane parts of being a family such as chores.

  • Understand that things such as role identifiers (e.g. Mom vs. Step-mom vs. using a person's name) have great impact. Giving the child permission and leeway in choosing how to connect with others can be a really healthy and helpful way to establish relationship dynamics. Also, recognize that those role identifiers can/will evoke an emotional response from other family members. For example, my step-son's mom never wanted him to address me as "Mom"; he always called me by my first name because of her strong feelings. This didn't bother me because it set the stage for me to navigate the nuances of my relationship with both of them as a loving adult versus having to take sides in the ongoing, conflictual relationship between my husband and his ex. 

No matter your part of a blended family, I hope you'll remember we're all doing the best we can with the knowledge, skills, and abilities we have. We can all grow. Show love and grace!

Promised Links

A New Psychology of Women (I mentioned her book regarding conflict)

Mental Health Resources: National Alliance of Mental Illness

Thanks for joining today! As we’ve always asked in the past, please pass the show link along to your friends and subscribe, download, and review wherever you are listening. If you’re a woman and you haven’t joined our private FB group A Place for Women, please do that now! It’ll be your source of encouragement.

And until next time, Consider Yourself Hugged 😘🤗


The information in this show is not intended to be therapy or to address your individual situation. It is information based on my experiences, opinions, and research. If you need further help, please reach out to one of the resources mentioned in the show notes.

Michelle Kixmiller, MSN, MAE, RN, APN, PMHNP-BC Michelle Kixmiller is a Board Certified

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner and Licensed Educator. She works with children and adults with mental health needs including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, ADHD, autism, schizophrenia, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Michelle served as a public school teacher and science department chair for over a decade when a family tragedy pulled her in a different direction. The death of her younger brother after a multiple year battle with depression and alcoholism led her to pursue a career in the mental health field. She went back to school to become a registered nurse graduating and gaining experience as a critical care nurse at a level 1 regional burn center prior to completing a graduate degree to become a mental health nurse practitioner. Her vision is holistic care through teamwork to create a more peaceful school environment for students and staff alike. No one should have to struggle alone. Michelle currently works full time for a non-profit community mental health center at an outpatient clinic and works PRN for an inpatient crisis stabilization unit. When not at work she loves spending time with family, traveling, watching movies (not scary ones), running (slowly), and Crossfit. Contact Michelle at Silver Lining Psychiatric Solutions, 615-378-7713 or

Grace Lichtenstein, MS

I am an award-winning international speaker/trainer, psychotherapist, coach, consultant, and a huge fan of all things nap-related. For over 25 years, I have been working with individuals and corporate teams to improve their health, become more productive, and reduce their stress. Through my training in both Western and Eastern wellness philosophies (including a BA in Psychology, an MS in Counseling Psychology, and certifications in addiction treatment), I truly have a comprehensive view of "what works". In addition, my diverse experience working with thousands of people in all 50 states and in 25 other countries (ranging from native New Yorkers to Native Alaskans and from the FBI to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), has allowed me to pinpoint some of the universal characteristics of successful individuals and teams.

Through my signature online, on-demand coaching program or with one of my live training or speaking sessions, I provide the tools to help almost every individual and team reach their true potential: healthier, more productive, and less stressed.

Contact Gracey at

Tami West, PhD Stress and Mental Health Expert Dr. Tami West uses her entertaining and compelling style to shine a new light on how to transform your life and discover solutions to life’s challenges. Her passion stems from a lifelong battle with an anxiety disorder which has uniquely equipped her to teach, encourage, and motivate others.

Tami has worked in a variety of industries including healthcare, school nutrition, corporate sales, and 10 years as a public-school teacher. In 2013 she received her PhD in Human Development, studying the connections among stress, emotions, and identity. She is so passionate about removing the mental health stigma that she recently became a certified Mental Health First Aid instructor.

Dr. West has spoken in 48 states across the US, as well as the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. In any given year, Tami speaks to groups with audiences consisting of anywhere from 100 to 3,000 people.

Her audiences are diverse and include Danbury Federal Prison inmates, teachers, administrative assistants, food service, and senior executives at Social Security Administration.

Dr. West is the author of several successful publications including two books: The Stress Club, Life Without the Monsters and Thrive. She is a mother of eight in a blended family and enjoys reading historical fiction, traveling with her husband Tim and family, and watching The Big Bang Theory.

Contact Tami at or follow her at Tami West Seminars.

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