Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, and Affection.  These “A’s” will work in building any relationship.  Blended families, especially, need to pay attention to the relationships being built within the family unit.  The husband and wife have to build their relationship.  Biological parents need to continue a positive relationship with their children and step parents need to create a good relationship with step children.  Step siblings also need to develop a relationship that works.  Having found old notes from a class my husband and I took two years ago, and realizing I can still learn from them, I type them here as a reminder to myself about building positive relationships within my own blended family and to share with others who are also blending a family.  The notes can apply to any relationship being improved upon.  (For other notes I found on blending families please see blog post “Notes From the Past.”)

Attention:

*Spend time alone with the person you are building the relationship. 

*Share routines and activities such as doing chores together and participating in some of their interests.

*Listen.

*Plan special occasions.

*Notice the good things they do, the “jobs well done.”

*Ask specific questions about their day.

Acceptance:

*We all like to be treated with respect.  Remember that and treat others accordingly.

*Focus on the positive qualities each person has.

*Avoid all comparisons.

*Avoid the game of “Who’s right?”  Instead, focus on what works.

*Encourage an expression of feelings.  Example:  “Boy, you’re really mad at me, aren’t you?”

*Work to get to know the other person.

*Don’t try to change a person (adult or child) to try to fit into your image.

*Forgive.

Appreciation:

*Focus on the things going well.

*Use verbal statements to show appreciation.

*Let them overhear you praising them to someone else.

*Leave little notes of appreciation around.

*Focus on small steps, not necessarily big achievements.

*Let them know you have noticed good things they have done.  “I’ve noticed…”

*Return the favor.

Affection:

*Affection comes slowly in a step family.  Recognize that, and don’t push for more than the person is ready for.

*Go slow and stay within the child’s comfort zone.

*Enjoy your small successes and build on them.

*Use humor.

*Have goals to work toward as individuals and as a family.

*Use family meetings to clear the air.

*Get the entire family’s input on what the family rules will be.  Everyone can sign the rules.  Try them for 30 days and then tweak them as needed. 

*Speak verbally of the affection you feel.

The four A’s seem to go in a logical order.  If you pay attention to someone you will begin to have an acceptance for that person and the things that are important to them.  As you accept them and all of their quirks, you will develop an appreciation for them.  As you express that appreciation affection will grow.  The four A’s will then be reciprocated.  It is a win/win way of building relationships.

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