Successfully Blending Families
"Did you ever notice how The Brady Bunch got just about all their stepfamily challenges worked out in the first episode?” asks Ron Deal of Successful Stepfamilies. Ron works alongside a growing number of ministries coaching people to use Biblical principles to overcome the challenges of blending their families. Any home in which at least one spouse brings children from a prior relationship knows that it is much harder in real life than it was for the Brady family. Blended families need to add an extra measure of intentionality that includes several important steps.
STEP ONE: Recognize a Higher Calling
Even though blended families are becoming a more common family structure, making them work well remains a real challenge due to the extra logistics and emotional land mines that are part of merging two homes into one. The additional challenges you face in building a strong marriage and family make following Jesus’ example of laying down your life for others even more essential. That calling is clear in the letter Paul wrote to the Philippians:
Regardless of your circumstances—whether your new family was the result of a death, divorce, or some painful choices—you are called to lay aside your own interests in order to serve those God has placed in your home (Matthew 16:24-25).
STEP TWO: Focus on the Children
Various family experts suggest strong families start with strong marriages. As the relational health of the couple goes, so goes that of the children. That is not necessarily the priority, however, with blended families. Deal has found that couples must first invest in the children they have brought together in order to be able to experience a growing marriage. This is especially true in the area of establishing authority. Children need parents to exercise legitimate authority over them. Unfortunately, children often see the authority exercised by non-biological parents as illegitimate. When this becomes evident, stepparents are tempted to either bulldoze their way to authority or just leave most of the work to the biological parent. Either of these options leads to greater stress. Non-biological parents need to exercise an appropriate measure of authority. They need to earn respect, not just demand it. Ask the Lord to give you an extra measure of patience and humility in dealing with stepchildren–especially when you know they have experienced the pain of divorced parents or the grief of a deceased mom or dad which can cause long-term emotional trauma.
STEP THREE: Allow God to Redeem Your Story
In Joel 2:25, God says, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” Every stepfamily brings with it the hope for a redeemed life story—the hope that difficult chapters of the past can be followed by better days. Stepfamilies quickly learn that better days do not appear magically. As they submit to God’s calling and trust His ability to write their stories, they find He is still able to make all things new.
The Smart Stepfamily
By Ron Deal
Discover the keys to a healthy stepfamily. Leading stepfamily expert Ron L. Deal reveals the seven fundamental steps to blended family success and provides practical, realistic solutions to the issues you face as a stepfamily. Whether married or soon-to-be-married, you'll discover how to: solve the everyday puzzles of stepparenting and stepchildren relationships; communicate effectively with an ex-spouse; handle stepfamily finances confidently; "cook" your stepfamily slowly rather than expect an instant blend.
This revised and expanded edition has updated research and two new chapters with even more real-world advice on topics such as stepsibling relationships and later-life stepfamilies.