A: No family likes to deal with financial issues and disputes. But from my experience, blended families can have an especially hard time because both the parents and the kids come into it with pre-existing beliefs. Unless everyone is willing to be flexible about their own beliefs and open to those of others, things can get pretty nasty pretty quickly.
“Laying down the law” can cause tension
among newly blended family members.
If one of the parents says, “No child under 12 should have an iPhone!” and a 10-year old from the other parent’s family already has one, bad feelings will abound. The kid with the iPhone will feel shamed and the other parent will feel challenged. Instead of enforcing rules based on what they did in their former families, blended parents should listen, learn and negotiate.
In addition, parents should take ownership of the discussions and decisions so the kids don’t feel like the conflicts are their fault. And they should learn to take the blending process one step at a time and handle each issue individually.
Instead of hard-and-fast rules, establish guiding principles such as
“Each financial decision has to be considerate of the family as a whole.”
For instance, since technology can quickly become very expensive – and a big source of conflict between kids – why not appoint a family member as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO)? The CTO would be charged with upholding the guiding principles and everyone would be expected to abide by his or her decisions as to who gets a new laptop and who can get by without one.
Guiding principles can lead to decisions based on levelheaded
reasoning and real budget considerations rather than emotions.
The family member appointed CTO can make decisions based on real needs rather than emotions. At the very least, this can prevent the kids from making unreasonable and costly demands. And in a blended family with more than one child, it can help kids learn that not everybody needs the same technology — or the same running shoes or the same bike. Jillian may need a more powerful laptop for her AP physics class, Jason may need better “kicks” for soccer practice. And Julian may need a better bike for his summer bike tour.
Eventually, these financial principles and lessons can be applied to other aspects of the blended family dynamic, and bring you a little bit closer to your most important goal — one big, happy family.