Blended Families - Common Sense
“Blended families” is a relatively new term in history, but it (or step families) has become part of every-day language in the last 50 years. In a sense, the blended family has become synonymous with a wicked stepparent or stepsibling of the ”dysfunctional family” in our culture. Let's not fool ourselves; our first exposures to blended families were poor examples. On one extreme, we had the evil fairy tale of Cinderella with a wicked stepmother and ugly stepsisters. On the other end of the spectrum, we were presented with the “everyone lived happily ever after” fictional family -- The Brady Bunch. But now, let's get real!
Common sense is one of our best allies in relationships. Treat each other with kindness, patience and respect -- the way you like to be treated. Refrain from speaking ill of their other natural parent at all cost. When two separate families come together under one roof, there are going to be conflicts. However, talking about them and understanding the other's feelings is necessary and critical. It will take time to build a history with each other that will someday grow from affection into familial love. It may take time and probably won't be easy, but it is well worth the effort.
Blended Families – Parents and Children
The first and foremost rule for blended families is that parents DO NOT disagree with each other in front of the children. When spouses have a conflict -- any conflict -- it should be discussed behind closed doors. It is very tempting to stand up for your own child and point a finger at the stepchild. It is equally tempting to accuse your spouse of unbalanced discipline toward your child. Do not allow yourself to be guilty of the same. "Remember, the children are thrown together with near strangers and suddenly feel they have to vie for their parent's attention. They often feel they are being replaced rather than added to," say Tom and Lori, parents of four.
"It is so important for children to see a united front and stable relationships for a change. The most common problem is discipline which can quickly disrupt this unity." Tom and Lori worked hard to unite their discipline ideas and styles. "Early on, the natural parent needs to talk to their children and reaffirm the control and respect due the stepparent. Back up your spouse! Whether children lost a parent due to death or divorce, their lives have changed," says Tom. Lori adds, "When the children knew ahead of time what was expected of them and the support their dad gave me, their acceptance of the new family became easier."
"Additionally, the children need quality time with their natural parent. If you are the step parent, be understanding about this. Mom, go to your son's ball game while Dad takes his daughter to the movies. This gives the children time to know they are still important and that I am not trying to come between them and their dad. It is also important to combine the group for a family outing -- as a whole family." Parents, don't forget to make time for the two of you without the kids! Plan "date night," for just the two of you once a week. After all, newlyweds need time alone too.
Blended Families – The Perfect Plan
New personalities, customs, and memories are all added to the new household of blended families. However, it is still basic that a child is the child and an adult is still the adult. Children need a balance of love and discipline. Give your stepchildren their ‘much needed’ affection, as you do your own children. (The loving feelings will grow in time as you do this.) It is the role of every parent (step or natural) to obey your responsibility of properly raising children. And children have a responsibility to honor their parents (Ephesians 6:2).
Tom and Lori went on to say, "Children do not have the maturity to understand the dynamics of this new family and how loving it could be; but as adults we should. Much like when couples adopt a child, we chose to marry into a family with these children. Care for them, nurture them, and accept them even when they seem to push away. We pray a lot for them and with them."
The following Bible verses can be of help during the times when raising a blended family seems like an insurmountable task. Remember that a house divided cannot stand.
Isaiah 66:13: "I will comfort as a child is comforted by its mother."
Ephesians 4:2: "Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowances for each other’s faults because of your love."
Ephesians 4:29, 31-32: "Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgive one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you."