On television back in the 1970s, The Brady Bunch was a sitcom featuring a man and a woman, each with three children from previous marriages. They marry and instantly form a new family with two parents, six children, a housekeeper, and a dog. Incredibly, all their problems were solved in 25 minutes or less, with plenty of time for commercials. Of course, that’s Hollywood. And you never saw the Brady kids traveling back and forth between their natural families.
In reality, when a blended family comes together, typically, issues remain unresolved for years. Emotions are misinterpreted and problems that need to be tackled usually remain untouched. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand the dynamics within a blended family.
Usually the focus is on the new bride and groom and the new union of the marriage partners. But what about the children? They need to be prepared for the new family dynamic.
Let’s say you are about to enter this new blended world with “Chris,” your fiancé. Several steps will be vital…
- Meet alone with your own children. Make this a real heart-to-heart time.
- Communicate your unconditional love for Say words like, “I love you. … I’ll always love you. … You’ll never be without my love.” Your children need to hear these words from you. Your loving words will prepare the hearts of your children to receive instruction about the change. Proverbs 16:21 says … “The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction.”
- If you have genuinely prayed through this decision and believe you are being led by God, assure your children, “I believe that marrying Chris is the Lord’s leading in my life.”
- Share the positive future you see. “Just as you are such a blessing to me, I also see this marriage as God’s blessing to provide a companion for me. And I believe blessings will be added to our family and to each of you.”
- Encourage open sharing of feelings. “I care about your heart and about what you’re feeling. What are you feeling now?” Listen closely to the response.
- Explain that Chris will not replace their natural parent. Be aware, many children feel disloyal if they have affection for a stepparent. “I expect you to continue to love all the family members you already love, but I also know you can develop a love for Chris too. He won’t be taking the place of anyone else, but you’ll build your own special relationship.”
- Make your marriage commitment clear. Your children need to know you are committed to this new relationship. Clearly say, “When we marry, Chris needs to feel accepted in our home. I’m committed to doing whatever I can to ensure that Chris feels welcome. Will you help me do that?”
- Ask for special help during this transition. It’s important to include the children. “Honey, I know this transition can feel awkward, but I’m counting on you to do what you can to help.”
- Continue to reaffirm your child’s secure “You will always have a place in my heart¾
a place that can never be taken away. Chris now, too, has a place in my heart, but your place will never be removed.” They need to hear that.
- Let your children know that Christ will always be the center of your blended family. Specifically say, “Our family belongs to the Lord, and He holds us all together.”
These steps are a start during those early stages. Now, what about the challenges of shared custody when children move from one home to another? In essence, the child “visits” one parent and then goes to “visit” the other parent. What should you do when your child returns home to you?
- Stop whatever you are doing.
- Greet your child with a smile and a warm, welcoming hug.
- Allow “reentry” time.
- Give focused attention.
- Ask nonthreatening questions—not an interrogation—to let your children know you care about their Sincerely say, “I hope you had a good time.”
Don’t assume that everything your children report is true. Be realistic and confirm what may have been said or done. Always distance yourself from anger. Your children may express anger toward you, but you will not always be the cause. They may feel frustration in the process, but be patient. If you get caught up in your child’s anger or if they become defiant or disrespectful, apply the truth of Proverbs 15:1 … “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” All children go through stages of transition as they seek to find their place in a blended family.
If you’re in a blended family, turn Romans 14:19 into a prayer. … “Lord, may everything I do lead to peace and build up each member within my family.”
Yours in the Lord’s hope,
If you’re on Facebook, I invite you to connect with me at Facebook.com/June.Hunt.Hope. And if you’re not, take it from me: You’re never too old to start! See you there!