Managing Blended Families on the Farm - Elaine Froese | Canada’s Farm Whisperer | Your go-to expert for farm families who want better communication and conflict resolution to secure a successful farm transition


Managing Blended Families on the Farm

by | Oct 12, 2023 | Farm Family, Grainews Articles

When you get married you blend two different styles of family dynamics, and it takes a while to adjust. According to the 2011 Canadian Census, 12.6% of Canadian families are step-parenting, and you can imagine the adjustments when these stepparents run farms.

In our coaching practice when we facilitate blended ag families navigating transition there are some key tools we use to help.

  1. Communication: Having direct one-to-one conversations helps you get quickly to the key issues. Parents in blended families are wise to create one-to-one relationships with each adult child to build trust and respect. It’s important to show up with kindness in your words and not participate in “family gossip”. Our team uses the PSI, personal style indicator to help the family learn what their key personal styles are, and how style impacts their ability to do tasks, keep track of details, influence their environment, and relate to people. (Ask for a sample PSI here).
  2. Managing expectations. If you frame your blended family as a team, then as parents you will consult with each other to break down assumptions and present a united front to the rest of your team, the family. Blended families have a lot of loss to process which fuels sadness, anger, and fear. So ask open-ended questions like: “What are you afraid of with our farm transition? What keeps you up at night? What do you need in this moment of our transition journey? What do you expect from me as your parent? And as an owner of this farm?
  3. Embrace conflict resolution. Everyone in a blended family will be better off when conflict is resolved and seen as a business risk management strategy. Tools for talking about tough issues are the ability to come from curiosity and not judgment. You need to reach out to explore possibilities and create solutions. You learn to be okay with expressing deep emotions in a safe and respectful place and manner. You put yourself in the shoes of the other person to gain their perspective. Don’t fight in front of your kids, even those who are now parents themselves.
  4. Adopt new traditions that create a ritual for your new family. Thanksgiving is a classic example of how folks like to celebrate in certain ways. This may be the time to ask what is meaningful to carry on, and what expectations and traditions are no longer workable.
  5. Set a good example. Model the behaviour you want to see in others and embrace differences. We say” Different is not wrong, it is just different”. We’ve also experienced a very powerful adult child express his forgiveness to his stepmother in a family farm transition meeting. His step-sibling said, “I want to be like you, that expression of forgiveness was very powerful!”. You need to draw deep compassion for adult children who have varying needs.
  6. Share the decision-making power. Managing blended families on farms is key when you are letting go of equity and decision-making power as the founder of the farm or ranch. It’s important to have family business meetings with all your blended family, the farm heirs, and non-farm heirs, so expectations can be managed and your direction and intentions for transferring management and ownership are clear. It is very powerful when you can solve problems together and everyone gets to understand why certain decisions were made.
  7. Use Thanksgiving as a reminder to update your documents.

Blended Family Checklist (FCC Canada June 2023 Agrisuccess)

“Problems can arise when farmers re-marry, but there are steps to help protect the farm business:

  • Sign a pre-nuptial agreement clarifying what each party owned coming into the relationship and how each would be split coming out. (If this is a difficult conversation our coaching team can help address this issue with facilitation.)
  • Update wills- new relationships demand new wills.
  • Update powers of attorney- do you want your ex-spouse to decide what happens to your financial affairs or make medical decisions?
  • Review beneficiaries on life insurance, RRSPs, and other investments-make sure the designated beneficiaries match what the will says,
  • Document financial transactions between spouses- loans between parties should be documented with amounts and repayment terms.”

My week before Canadian Thanksgiving is usually full of phone calls and emails asking for some support on how to manage the expectations of getting together with family when the dynamics are tense with few folks talking together.

This year is your opportunity to reflect on how you are showing up as a decent, kind, compassionate person. Are you willing to accept other folks may see the world differently than you do? Can you explore ways to understand the vision for the family and the farm? I can see the teary eyes of the folks who come up to me after I give a speech at a conference.

They want to know how to deal with blended families when the expectations of each adult child are just not workable or realistic for the parents’ financial goals and abilities.

Every family is messy and has issues. Some families are proactive and willing to work out ways to create harmony through understanding. Other families are impatient and self-centered, so they just don’t show up for turkey and they avoid any kind of hard conversations altogether.

You get to choose.

I just wish you could have been present at the stepfamily meeting with heaps of adult children around the table, passing the beanie baby bull talking stick, and saying how grateful they were to finally understand why decisions for transition were being made, and that their input was being respected.

Make this Thanksgiving different. Reach out. Adapt to others. Share deep appreciation for each other and the many gifts you have been given as a child growing up in agriculture in one of the best places on earth.

Give thanks with a grateful heart. Honour your parents. Be a team.

Be courageous. Blended families can work.


Elaine Froese and her coaching team are here to help you find harmony through understanding. Visit here. Sign up for the Farm Family Harmony membership now!

Did you enjoy Managing Blended Families on the Farm? You might want to check these articles out too:

Power of Attorney: Protecting Your Farm and Family
Boundary Principles for Farm Families
Plugged combines and poor communication stops now!

Follow Elaine on Social for More Helpful Farm Family Advice!


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