Organization offers workshop to help deal with the challenges of blended families
If this is your second marriage, chances are, you are a part of a blended family. And you are not alone. Recent statistics show that one in three Americans is now a stepparent, a stepchild, a stepsibling, or some other member of a blended family.
As parents and newlyweds, there are many challenges you are bound to face. Some expected, some unforeseen. “Both of us grew up in blended families,” says Rachel Scott, who married Willie Scott in 2011. “When Willie and I married, we became a blended family, too. We decided right away that we wanted to do things a bit different than what we had experienced. Not that it was necessarily bad, but we just wanted to approach it differently to help the transition go smoother. From the start, we wanted to strive for unity and oneness that we sometimes felt we’d missed growing up.”
When they met, Willie was a widower with three children, and Rachel was divorced with two. Since their marriage, the Scott family has had two together, totaling seven children.
“One thing we realized early on,” Willie says, “was that we had naturally assumed things, as far as expectations went. And we were afraid to bring up certain issues, fearing that if we spoke up, our feelings on the matter wouldn’t be well received. For example, at first Rachel tried to fit into that sudden typical mom role, and that didn’t always work.”
“I now feel that my specific purpose is to fulfill the needs of each individual child,” Rachel says. “I don’t have to always be “Mom” to them. There are times they need a different kind of nurturing in their lives.”
“Once we sat down and discussed it together,” Willie adds, “That became a key turning point.”
That turning point changed the course of their lives, not only in their family, but also guided them into a whole other direction. The couple decided to form an organization to help others in blended families. “Better Than Blended Ministry” is curriculum based, designed for families struggling with a new family dynamic.
“Our main goal is for everyone to realize that they need to develop their own identity for their individual blended families,” says Rachel, a high school teacher at Shaw High School, who also writes for Huffington Post on divorce and parenting.
“Our six-week workshop is where we share what we’ve experienced. We also have a workbook we use for the sessions,” explains Willie, who works as a social service liaison for Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority. “As we read through the book, we discuss matters of concern, then offer suggestions on how we deal with certain situations.”
One couple who has benefited from the organization is Sharon and Darius Brown of Richmond Heights. “The workshops are so helpful,” says Sharon, a realtor for Howard Hanna, who met the Scotts when she sold them their house. “When they told us that they were creating this ministry, I thought it’d be a good idea for us. When we began dating, my husband had a two-year-old son and I didn’t really know what to expect. As time went on, I noticed some of the challenges that came with being a blended family. Some things weren’t easy to solve and you don’t have answers, you just try to figure it out as you go.”
The Browns soon discovered that they weren’t the only ones going through the same challenges, such as how to set boundaries when raising children with former spouses, and being comfortable with communication. “It was also important to us that the kids see how we all interact with each other for their benefit. How we decide what’s a good idea, what’s not a good idea, and how we strive for common ground,” Sharon says. Their blended family now includes three children, ages 8, 5, and 8 months.
Meetings are held at the Journey Community Church in Fairview Park on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. The church provides child care for the attendees. The Scotts say they plan to expand to other locations in the future.
For those who can’t make the workshops, they can still get the free workshop eBook called, “7 Ways to Deal with Conflict in Co-Parenting” from their website. “Having the content in which to work is very beneficial,” Rachel says. “We address topics like dealing with conflict, along with past and present hurts that need to be dealt with, so everyone can move toward a better-than-blended family.
“The ultimate goal is for these families to know that we are walking this journey alongside with them and experiencing life with them. That we’re all on the same level, and wavelength. We’re in this together.”
For more info, see their website at www.BetterThanBlended.com.