” My name is Jackie Keya and my business is called The Blended Family Network.”
We support blended/step families to create and sustain healthy family relations as well as enjoy a harmonious family unit. I am the Founder and a Blended Family Coach
A blended family is a family unit that consists of a couple and children from this and previous relationships of the wife, husband or both. Blended families are also commonly known as step families.
I derive my passion for blended families from my family.
I am in a blended family and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I have been in a blended family for the last 14 years (and still counting). I am a proud mother of four, a step mum of two and a bio mum to two. Over the years, we have achieved understanding, mutual respect, mutual love, care for one another, happiness and harmony as a family unit.
I understand the bumpy road, the challenges and complexities that step families face, however, I believe with the correct tools, strategies and support, happiness in step families is possible. This is why I do what I do.
Blended families are on the increase in Kenya today. They are becoming a significant part of our society – you probably know or heard of someone neighbor/relative/friend/colleague that is in a blended family. There are divorce cases in courts everyday not forgetting couple who settle issues outside the courts to avoid the high costs of legal fees. Other life events like death and broken promises have contributed to increase in the number of blended families that we have.
Despite this increase, there are a few places that these families can access support and help. Most of the family/relationship/parenting resources and support available in Kenya is geared towards the ‘traditional’ or ‘natural families’ (biological parents plus their children) including the premarital counseling available (Private or in churches).
In addition to this, there are still negative stereotypes associated with step families/step relations. This is heightened by individuals’ societal/religious/personal beliefs. Due to this many individuals in blended families are hesitant to reach out for help or support, this is recipe for disaster. Smart blended family couples are proactive in ensuring they have the skills and resource to make their marriage and family a success.
Advice to step parents
Being a stepparent is one of the toughest familial roles, it comes with many challenges yet it’s significant to the kind of family relations the family unit shall have. One important advice I will give step parents is to focus on building positive relationship with their step children. It is unrealistic to expect your step children to automatically love you because you and the dad/mum are madly in love furthermore, children today do not automatically obey adults because they are adults. Therefore building a positive relationship is important.
Relationships are built, they are not automatic, be patient with yourself and more importantly be patient with your step child. Trust, respect and honor grow out of a relational history one has with a child and there is no quick way to establish this. Positive relationship is the foundation of mutual respect and affection is, with this, a step parent has the lee way to lead and influence the child with less resentment from the step child.
Blended families are not made in blenders….. Blending a family is a slow cooking process. Research shows that the step-family adjustment process may take 2-5 years from the time the family lives together under one roof. Don’t be shortsighted, the goal for you and your new spouse is to be married for many years even after the youngest child has grown and left home.
Challenges of blended families
Creating a happy family unit is not easy even for the ‘traditional’ / ‘natural’ marriage. The dynamics however are more complex in the blended families, we are raised and prepared to get married then have children, no one is prepared for blended family, nonetheless, life happens and blended families are here. Some of the challenges in blended families are
Parenting – parenting is the core role of any type of family. Unlike the traditional family where children are a source of unity, parenting in a blended family can be the number one source of conflict. This could be due to difference in parenting styles, values, lack of clarity on roles & failure of both the parent & step parent to work as a team.
The Ex. – When you marry someone with children, apart from his/her children that you accept, the ex also becomes part of your lives (dead/alive). You cannot wish this away. Dealing with an Ex is also a challenge to blended families.
Parenting is challenging to all types of families. The first way to overcome this challenge is by striving to create a relationship with your step children. Do not be in a rush to fix or discipline.
It takes two to step parent successfully (both the step parent and the bio parent). Before you establish connection with the children, as a step parent you are actually an extension of the bio parent’s authority. Therefore you are their mentor and friend as you gradually form bonds towards the parenting role. Avoid taking the direct role of assigning punishments and consequences but you can voice your concerns to the bio parent. Let the bio parent administer punishment and consequences
It takes a unified effort, accordingly establish and agree on standard rules for the house and consequences/system of discipline (include the children in this discussion). In this case when the rules are broken they are not step parents rules but the house rules.
Please bear in mind, there are no ex parents only ex spouse. Therefore, do not discount the important role and place the ex (your step child’s other parent) plays in their child’s life. Respect the role and the importance they have on their children (whether you believe it or not), do not bad mouth them (dead or alive) in front of their child. It is paramount to attacking the child’s DNA and though the child may say nothing, they will resent you (wouldn’t you).
Be secure with yourself, you are not in competition with your spouse’s/partner’s ex, neither are you there to replace their position in the children’s life.
Making a difference in the world
Since time immemorial, Disney and the folk tales we have read and heard growing up have conditioned us to believe that the last place happiness or forever thereafter can be found is in step families. This is not actually true. At The Blended Family Network, we are making a difference by being advocates of harmony, happiness and forever thereafter in step families.
Secondly, the success rate of blended family marriages are grim, it is not difficult to figure out why this is the case. The blended family experience can be very complicated. These challenges will either pull the couple closer or pull them apart, most of the time the adults are pulled apart because they are not equipped and supported on how to deal with the challenges.
By supporting the blended families, we are giving step families a chance to beat these odds and decrease the number of families/marriages that are pulled apart by the challenges of the step families.
Family is the first place of learning; our family teaches us how to function in the world. Being part of a loving family unit regardless of the type (step/adopted/single parent/natural etc) helps the children to gain confidence. As we help blended families build successful family units, we are by extension helping raise a confident future generation.
How my passion turned Into business
I was an Administrative Assistant with an NGO for years which closed its offices in Kenya due to lack of donor funds. Out of job, I became a stay at home mum for quite some time. As I made plans to get back to work, I realized I actually never enjoyed administrative work. Instead, I loved and enjoyed helping people.
This how I settled on counseling as the new career that would allow me to do what I love. I started by pursuing a certificate course in counseling followed by a VCT counseling course. This enabled me to work on volunteer basis as a VCT counselor in Shauri Moyo and part time school counselor for schools in Kawangware & Mukuru kwa Reuben. I had found something that I enjoyed doing and I was insatiable therefore I went further to University of Nairobi where I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Arts double majored in Psychology & Sociology, got Higher Diploma in Counseling from Kenya Association of Professional Counselors and I have just finished my Neuro Linguistic Programming Master Life Coach Practitioner Course.
When I started my Coaching & Counseling business, my focus was to work with teenagers. Most of the teenagers programs only ran on holidays. This being the case I also started working with married couples, the first few couples that came to see me, were all in a blended family. I related to their challenges, I understood them and I believe our sessions were successful because of this.
That’s how I got my Aha! Moment, I realized I effortlessly created a safe non judgmental space for people in a blended family to talk about their challenges, I easily forged a positive rapport with them, I had the skills combined with life experience to make a difference in the blended families lives. This is how supporting blended families became both my passion and my business.
Services that BLENDED FAMILY NETWORK PROVIDES Include:
One on one coaching
Individual sessions suitable to discuss and explore blended family situation or challenge you may be experiencing.
Marriage is a life long journey and requires adequate preparation. Our premarital counseling program gives you a chance to smooth out the rough spots and design a roadmap towards achieving a family unit you desire.
Positive Parenting Program
6 weeks program where weekly, participants go through a series of topics designed to equip them with strategies and tools to successfully parent their children either as the bio parents/step parents.
Our Marriage/Relationship coaching will help you work on the areas that are hindering you from achieving the happy, healthy, loving ‘team’ that your children need you to be.”
Want to get in touch?
Call : 0789 606 553 or 0726 460 245
Facebook Page: The Blended Family Network