Our value systems differ from person to person. The value(s) you live by will define your choices in life. And the choices you make today will ultimately determine the outcome of your life. Value in this context refers to the worth or importance you attach to certain things in life. What a person attaches importance to might not necessarily be of the same importance to the family s/he is getting into.
There is a story of a teenager whose parents got separated about a decade ago and she was made to move from one school to the other. The mother lived a difficult life due to the little resources available to her. Over the years, things got worse for the father as well. It got so bad that the children living with him were asked to move in with the mother. Things still went from bad to worse so much so that the mother had to do what is necessary to sustain the family. While going through this phase, the children developed a mindset that was influenced by their difficult experiences. Some years down the line, her aunt decided to take her in and be fully responsible for her education. In the aunt’s home, discipline and truthfulness happen to be their core values but when the girl came into the house, it was difficult adjusting to the way things were done. The aunt tried to educate her to have a change of attitude and maintain an open mind. She said it would help her unlearn and re-learn things that would make her a better person in life. However, she could not stay more than three months in the house when she decided to leave because she could not cope with the new way of life. She was used to her old ways and was not willing to adjust. She misinterpreted discipline to be suffering. So she created a negative impression about the family to her mother. Although the aunt tried handling her differently from the way she handled her children, knowing her temperament and background, she could not cope with the so called strict measures.
This is a true life story that is used to buttress this article. The experience of this girl might be different from others’. But they all share the same denominator; your past experiences would influence your value system in life. Some of these value differences are represented under different categories below:
1. Mediocrity versus Excellence.
2. Scarcity mentality versus Abundance mentality.
3. Lazy tendencies versus Diligent attitude.
4. Frivolous lifestyle versus Purposeful living
5. Living a wasteful life versus Saving for the future.
6. Culture driven lifestyle versus Principle driven lifestyle.
The values in the new family most likely will be different from those of the previous family. Stepfamilies that are unaware of these differences risk the possibility of using biological family approach in stepfamilies. The potential outcomes of this value conflict could be one or more of the following;
1. It can create friction while trying to settle down and get adjusted to the new values. The friction has the potential of going beyond the stepfamily to the two families involved at large.
2. The unresolved friction from the value conflict can further degenerate to hatred in the family. This hatred is cancerous in nature because it has the tendency to engender strife and disunity between the families.
3. This can also create unrealistic expectations on the side of the family accepting the new member of the family. There is a tendency to weigh the person based on your own standards and not be sensitive to the other person’s background or training.
4. Misrepresentation of the receiving family’s sincere intention. The person being accepted has the tendency to project wrong impression of the receiving family to his or her immediate family, especially when s/he refuses to settle into the stepfamily appropriately.
What can I do?
1. Exercise a flexible mind. This will help you adopt new ways of doing things. If you maintain the previous ways you were used to in dealing with the person, you might get frustrated because there is a difference in how you do your things compared to how s/he does hers/his.
2. Understand you have background differences. These background differences are largely products of upbringing, association and culture. Therefore, do not expect same approach to the way you handle things generally.
3. There is a strong need for you to be tolerant, understanding the second point mentioned above. There is a need to create room to accommodate the excesses to some extent from the person coming into the family.
4. Managing your choice of words. There is a need for you to be deliberate about the choice of words used. Words have different degree of effect on individuals, depending on the person’s temperaments. Sensitivity to words varies from person to person. What is no big deal to one in a given situation might be to the other person. Sensitivity and consideration are two major factors to consider in avoiding problem(s) in stepfamilies.
There is a tendency for you to hold onto your value system without the understanding that the other person/family has his/her/their own value system. This will most likely create a difference between the actual and the expected. Having a good understanding of these possible positions as stated above in stepfamilies will help you exhibit the four tips stated in the previous segment. The lessons in this article will help prevent the loss of love between the parties involved. The ones that have the “tearing-apart” experience will also be able to bring the pieces together and create a new environment of love and peace.
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