“Treasure the relationships closest to you—even if they come in a form that you weren’t expecting.”
Restructured families, whether remarriages or second familes, are becoming the norm. However, they tend to take shape with a lot of emotional baggage. You may have experienced this in your own life or in the life of one of your children. Many people have a tendency to pull back from these types of relationships and resist the change intensely.
What would happen instead if you refrained from judging too much in these situations and reached out to your new family? While I would not want you to compromise your loyalties, I would encourage you to develop bonds with children brought in by a new marriage, for example. It is going to become important for us to accept our extended families and develop relationships with their extended families. Harmony within these relationships is essential and can eliminate a lot of unnecessary stress.
These families are not going away. They are going to be a part of our lives for the rest of our lives. Accepting this and treating each other with mutual respect, love, support, and admiration is going to be important to ensure the quality of life we desire for 80, 90, 100 years and beyond. To resist this is a complete energy drain, like resisting gravity. Why create this extra stress in what can already be a stressful situation? Why waste the energy trying to control others or being self-righteous about our anger and disconnectedness?
Relationships with stepchildren and step-grandchildren can enhance the quality of your life and can assist you in developing a support system for your present and future. What you put out comes back to you. You can’t expect to receive down the road if you don’t give the support now. Understand that we can choose the amount of time we spend with these people and the level of involvement they have in our lives. But to deny their existence and push those relationships away just perpetuates separation and pain.
Multiple generations are going to have to learn to get along, work together, and support each other for the good of society as a whole. How can we do this? How do we balance our old-world values with the technological advances in this high-paced, rapidly changing world? To do so requires an understanding and appreciation of generations outside our own.
You may find from time to time that some of your support systems run dry. You veer away from the values shared by certain circles of friends. They no longer seem like viable components of your rock solid support system and you might consider letting them go. Disconnecting is always an option, but so is changing your expectations. Alternatively, if your family is not a rock solid support system, but you cannot disconnect from them, you may simply choose to reset your expectations with respect to them. If they are unable or unwilling to give you the support you need, stop looking to them for support.
Surround Sound Support
I have seen people get consumed with one circle and neglect the others, causing an imbalance, boredom, and stress. Multiple circles might include professional, sports, religious, friendship, family, support groups, and others. Utilize these varied areas of support in order to integrate changes needed for healthier family and home life.
Blending values and accepting the gifts that each generation has to offer can build relationships that keep the older generations younger and energetic while keeping the younger generations wise beyond their years. For the older generations, they connect them to celebrations—from births to birthday parties to confirmations, graduations, and weddings.
You can connect to these types of events through your family and extended family—as well as through churches and synagogues, professional groups, hobbies, and areas of activism with which you are affiliated. To benefit from these circles of generations you’ve got to be willing to show up and attend. Be there and participate with authenticity and genuine goodwill. By bringing an attitude of acceptance and openness, you are more likely to attract similar attitudes by breaking the boundaries. Change takes time, but simple steps make it worthwhile for a healthier you and family dynamic.