Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Successfully Integrating Blended Families

Understanding Blended Families: 1             

When we think about the meaning of the word “family,” the definition has changed over-time. Often previous romantic relationships are ended and new relationships are formed. These relationships also include the introduction of children from previous relationships. It can be confusing and frustrating for everyone involved in the creation of a “new” family.

A lot of confusion and frustration in blended families comes from individual expectations. A blended family cannot expect to look like each partner’s previous family, nor can they expect children to magically accept the blended family and all of its members immediately without discord.  

Successfully bringing two families together takes time, energy, respect, and commitment. It is up to the parents to plan ahead in order to assist children with adjusting to the changes in how their family looks and functions.

Building the Foundation:2  

Though most of us are not general contractors, we do understand in order to build any type of home or office a solid foundation has to be established. If this does not occur, grave consequences occur, possibly injuring those involved. This is no different when forming a blended family. Please see the tips below on building the foundation for a new family:

  1. Don’t make too many changes at once.
  2. Don’t expect to form immediate loving relationships with your partner’s children.
  3. Experience daily life with your partner’s children. You need to be able to spend time together when things get “real” versus only during fun events.
  4. Have a discussion with your partner BEFORE you marry and/or move your family in together. You will not be able to parent how you’ve always known, so have a plan in place of what parenting will look like in your new family. Remember, parenting styles can vary differently
  5. Remind all involved that you WILL NOT choose one over the other. You want to let everyone know you are committed to having a relationship with them all.
  6. Set the expectation for respect. People don’t have to like each other in order to show respect. Liking each other can take a lot of time, effort and energy. Don’t give up if it doesn’t happen quickly.
  7. Think of relationships in your new family as a bank account. You slowly put love, time, and energy into the relationships, which may one day yield quite a “fortune” for you and your partner.

Creating Success:1  

  1. Make sure you and your partner have created a strong relationship. You are going to need to lean on each other and work closely together to make your family a success.
  2. Encourage family members to be kind to each other. This doesn’t mean family members have to be best friends; however, they do need to make an effort to respectfully interact with each other.
  3. Don’t forget to show the children in your family respect. Respect should not be given based on age. Children are people, too, and deserve respect and kindness.
  4. Respect where each family member is in understanding and accepting their new family. This goes for adults, children and adolescents alike. Each person may be in different stages of understanding and acceptance. This is okay! This is a natural part of blending your family together.
  5. Remember, there is always time to grow! It may take a few years, but your goal as parents and caregivers is for your family to get to a place where its members want to choose to spend time together.

Creating Bonds:1  

  1. Create an environment that creates feelings of safety and protection. Going through the often traumatic situations that lead to the formation of new families is a lot for children to handle. They need to know they are safe and protected.
  2. Don’t be afraid to show affection. You have to remember to allow time for this process to be fully accepted by children.
  3. Make sure kids have a role within their new family and that they are respected. Everyone needs and has a job to do. This helps give children ownership over the change process.
  4. Try to understand children’s perspectives and let them know you understand. Validation can go a long way with children, especially during a lot of change.
  5. Don’t forget to say thank you. All of us like to know when we are doing a good job and to be encouraged by others. This can help children to better understand their role within their new family.
  6. Children need limits and structure. This helps them feel that they are cared for and will help them feel safe and secure. “Step-parents” need to take caution in being the one to discipline and set limits, initially; however, they do need to work with the child’s parent to discipline and set limits. This is part of making the parenting plan mentioned earlier.

No matter what the situation is contributing to the formation of a new, blended family, let the children guide the progression of adapting to the new family situation. Make sure you give them time and space to adjust to major changes and give them the opportunity to adapt on their own. If you give them the control to pace the development of their new relationships, they will most likely not feel as distressed.

For Help:  

If you or your family is experiencing difficulty, utilize EAP benefits to seek services from highly qualified, licensed professionals.

If someone you know is experiencing difficulty let them know they are not alone and you are willing to assist them with finding the help they need.  Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone is powerful in helping others seek the help they need.

If you or someone you know needs immediate mental health assistance, you can access a local crisis program, such as Lewis Gale Respond (540-776-1100), go to the nearest emergency room, or call 911.  Remember, it’s better to get help for yourself or someone else if needed.  Getting help is better than the alternative.

Psychological Health Roanoke has qualified and experienced clinicians available to help you and your family.   



  1. Kemp, G., Segal, J., and Robinson, L. (August 2015). Step-parenting and Blended Families. retrieved September 22, 2015 from



Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Building Community

When we think of building community, we often think about reaching out to helping others who are struggling. We don’t always think our role and benefits of being a part of community. Within our world, there is a lot of differing views of community. In this newsletter, I invite you to think about community in a different way. As you read, I encourage you to think about what you have in common with others versus what is different.

In order to build community, real relationships are built among people. This means getting to a place where we can truly be ourselves and not worry about the judgement of others. I’m not saying we extend trust to all of those we meet; however, I do think we often let barriers, whether real or perceived, get in the way we relate to and interact with others.

In the early 1980’s Dr. M. Scott Peck discovered something by pure accident during a workshop he was conducting. In short, what Dr. Peck found was the more time people spent together the more they felt like they were able to be their genuine authentic selves. Through this process, he found people were able to learn a lot about themselves and others, while being able to open up to process challenges and joys in life. This process helped participants feel accepted, which in turn helped them see the world through different, less hurtful lenses. This process of Building Community helped participants see where their fears were getting in the way of connecting with others and helped them more openly love others and be loved.

When we look at the core of each person, we are people. We all struggle, we all experience some sort of joy, and we all yearn for connection to others. Often our views and perceptions keep us from reaching out and connecting to those who are different. We are often afraid of what might happen. Perhaps what we are afraid of is finding out there is nothing to be afraid of in the first place. Perhaps we can find more openness, joy, peace, and understanding.

How to begin building a larger community:
1.       Get curious about those who are different by asking questions. Learning about the differences of others is not going to compromise your values and beliefs unless you chose to allow it.
2.       Allow yourself to be placed in situations where you can learn about others different than you and where others can learn about you.
3.       Examine any biases or stigmas you have of other cultures, groups of people. This goes beyond people of different races and ethnic backgrounds.
4.       Educate yourself about others. Read up on what others are doing and how others live. Educating yourself can help get rid of fear based on differences; the more you know the less scary something can be.  
5.       Allow others to tell their stories and actually listen to them. We often feel defensive when others who differ from us begin to talk about ways their life is different from ours.
6.       Be aware of differences in communication, values, and beliefs.
7.       Challenge yourself and your beliefs. Don’t always assume the majority way of thinking and acting is the right way.
8.       Take risks – you are going to stick your foot in your mouth from time to time when learning about others. This is okay. After you get over the embarrassment you’ll have had an opportunity to grow closer to another person through learning.
9.       Be an ally to others who are different than you. You don’t have to have the same values and beliefs to be an ally to someone. All you need to do is be willing to respect who they are.

Relationship is reciprocal. By using the tips above, you will give yourself the opportunity to grow and experience more of this world through relationship with others. If you are having difficulty, try asking yourself the following. Do I live in fear of difference, and if so, where is my fear coming from?

The following sources were used to write this post:

Friday, September 11, 2015

Drug Take-Back Day

Virginia will participate, Saturday, September 26, 2015 in the tenth National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), this collaborative effort between state and local law enforcement agencies provides residents with an opportunity to dispose of potentially dangerous controlled substances in their medicine cabinets in an environmentally safe manner.   Healthcare practitioners are encouraged to advise patients about this service and to remind them it is free and anonymous with no questions asked. Collection activities will take place from 10:00 a.m. through 2:00 p.m. at sites coordinated by law enforcement throughout Virginia.   To find a collection site nearby or for more information, click on the following link:  

Monday, September 7, 2015

Play Therapy IS Effective

Play Therapy is a commonly misunderstood form of psychotherapy. Parents and caregivers often think a Play Therapist simply plays with their child. This is a common and unfortunate misunderstanding. Play Therapy is a longstanding research-based and valid modality of psychotherapy that caters to a child’s natural form of language and expression, play. Play Therapists are specifically trained to help children use play and play activities to explore and work through many different types of thoughts, feelings and challenges. Think of toys as a child’s words and the play as their language. In order to understand and help facilitate processing and exploration, a Play Therapist is required to have specialized training, education, and experience. In addition to being used with children, Play Therapy is also effective in working with teenagers, adults and families. Psychotherapy with children MUST look different from traditional talk therapy in order to be effective. It is also refreshing to know that teenagers and adults have options when receiving therapy.

If you are looking for a Play Therapist please call our office, Psychological Health Roanoke, at 540-772-5140. We have highly competent and caring Play Therapists ready to help you and your family reclaim happiness and balance in your life. 


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

We Stand With WDBJ7

Within the past week our community was shaken by the WDBJ 7 on-air shootings resulting in the death of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. Vickie Gardner is the sole survivor of the attack. PHR clinician’s and staff would like our community to know we stand in solidarity with you. The event of the past week has left feelings of confusion, anger, and fear in many of us.

Two of our PHR clinician’s, Dr. Bruce Sellars and Dorene Fick, had the opportunity to work with part of the media community affected by this tragedy. PHR often provides crisis response services in the wake of communal tragedy. PHR had a strong presence after the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007. It is our honor and privilege to have the opportunity to provide support to our community.
We will not forget Alison and Adam. From what we’ve learned about them, they were people full of compassion and life. As we move forward, it is our duty to rebuild a sense of safety in our community together.  Just as PHR stood with Virginia Tech, we stand with WDBJ7.