Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil, PhD views the trend of committed couples with children living in separate households damaging to family units. Now that the holidays are looming closer, kids shuttled between two separate households can become even more confusing, especially if they are young. Dr. Bonnie surmises that young children will have the security of their holiday traditions shaken. “After all, will Santa know which chimney is theirs?”

Apparently many couples are opting to have separate bedrooms, and even living apart to avoid conflicts, according to a New York Times article November 17, 2010 titled “Blending Like The Brady Bunch, Let’s Not Go Too Far.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/18/garden/18unblended.html).

“Couples who set up separate dwellings as a solution to resolving conflict are sending the wrong messages to the children, and not teaching kids conflict resolution. I find this disturbing,” says Dr. Weil.

Blended family dynamics get even more complicated during the holidays. Children in stepfamilies have twice as many parent and grandparent figures, all vying for time, increasing the opportunity for disagreements. In addition, parents’ living apart adds confusion, stress, and sends the wrong message to kids. “We have to teach our children that being part of a family unit is like being a shareholder in a company. Everyone has a vote, and a responsibility to be part of a successful team, and not bail when the going gets tough. Teaching this concept starts with the parents.”

Parents need to employ the following guidelines, and adhere to these rules especially during the holidays.

  1. Use Smart Heart Dialogue Skills (found in Dr. Bonnie’s book Make Up Don’t Break Up with accompanying DVD Falling in Love and Staying In Love
  2. Always fight fair (no blaming, shaming, or judging)
  3. Have weekly talks including all family members to voice grievances and solve problems
  4. Reward members for getting along

When discussing an issue, remember to utilize play to make kids more receptive to learning lessons. Play is to children what conversation is to adults. Teach children that conflict is an occasion for closeness, not an opportunity to employ an exit strategy,” says Dr. Bonnie.


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