Our Venn Diagram Framework for Blended Families
April 22nd, 2016
When my wife and I married, she brought to our marriage her daughter from a prior marriage. Since then we have had two additional children (three if you count our dog). In modern nomenclature, we are a blended family. I wasn’t raised in a blended family so it has been a new, enriching, and at times challenging journey. For example: Do I introduce our oldest as “my daughter” or “step-daughter.” When do we include her biological father (her dad) and new wife in our celebrations for her? And, how do my wife and I address the fair versus equal question when it comes to our will?
Recently I conducted a multigenerational family meeting with a blended family. Represented at this family meeting were two families consisting of 7 adult children and the biological mother from one family and the biological father from the other family. These two families were brought together, through marriage, about 10 years ago. Given the geographic dispersion and busy lives of the NextGen, they hadn’t spent a great deal of time together – yet they expressed a care and love for one another…”We refer to each other as brothers and sisters.” On a relative basis, both families had financial resources, however, one family had significantly more.
Our Legacy Capitals family meeting process consists of conducting one-on-one meetings or conference calls with each family member (and their trusted advisors) who will be attending the meeting, having the family complete one of our online family assessments (e.g., Family Skills Success Index) and personality profile (e.g., Myers Briggs), and so forth. Given that this was a blended family, we also integrated our Venn Diagram Framework into the process.
For the purpose of this post, I will only focus on how we integrated our Venn Diagram Framework into this family meeting process in the hope you will find value for your family or the families you serve.
At the meeting I presented a Venn Diagram on the board. As I referenced the “two families” I explained: “Imagine your biological family is represented by the blue circle and your biological family is represented by the yellow circle. In these respective circles are the experiences, memories, resources, cultural norms, values, money scripts, wisdom, etc. that you each brought to one another. The green section represents what you now share and have co-created over the past ten years. Also imagine that there are additional individual colored circles overlapping these larger circles representing each of your individuals lives.”
I then guided the family’s conversation by using discovery questions such as:
1. What is presently represented in the green section?
2. Is there anything else that should be added to the green section over time to help your family flourish together?
3. How do we respectfully acknowledge, honor, and maybe even benefit from that which is uniquely in each family’s respective blue and yellow circles?
Our Venn Diagram framework led to a meaningful, insightful, and bonding experience the family hadn’t yet had. One of the sons commented to both his biological parent and new other parent, “I truly didn’t realize how important this was to the both of you that we grow in love and togetherness with one another.”
From this discussion I then helped them shape what next steps they wanted to take before our next family meeting to continue the progress that was made in this meeting.
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