Blended Family, Marriage & Family

How To Fit In As A Stepparent

 

pexels-photo-164531.jpegHave there been times when you’ve felt like no matter what you tried, it seems instead of growing closer together as a family, you feel as though you are moving farther and farther apart?

Don’t worry, you are not alone. Many stepparents have felt the same at one point or another. It’s common for many stepparents to feel as though the blending process is a never-ending struggle.

The real question is why. The most common answer is unrealistic expectations. Most of us coming into a blended family come into it with expectations of how the relationship with our stepchild should go. When it doesn’t look like we think it should, we start to question our decisions.

So what are 3 realistic expectations that could help us start the blending process right?

Don’t expect the child to be in love with you right from the start.

Relationships take time. There is chemistry that is attracting you to your mate. You and your spouse may be head over heels in love, but you and your step child may not feel the same. You will have to be intentional about learning about the child/children and spending time with them.

Don’t take it personal.

We all want people to love us and nobody likes to be rejected. The fact is it very well may not have anything at all to do with you. It’s common for children to have an allegiance to their biological parent. When they are faced with someone coming into their family from the outside, it’s normal for them to be apprehensive.

Start small.

I know this doesn’t sound very glamorous, but a relationship has to start somewhere. Look for the opportunity to nurture whatever seeds you can. Just like any garden planted, it doesn’t produce crops overnight. Focus on the future goal and not on the current work.

The Bible says that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. This is a great example of focusing on the end result, and not the process to get there. As I reflect on how horrible and painful it must have been for Jesus to die on the cross, to choose to lose his life to gain relationship with us, the challenges we face in the blending process to gain relationship with our step kids doesn’t seem so challenging or painful. The outcome of this process will hinge on the choices we make everyday; whether we choose to love or choose not to love.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

‭‭ Romans‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Blended Family, Marriage & Family

A History of Wrongs

alone black and white blur boy

Yesterday, as I was driving to pick up my wife from seeing her last client, I had a random thought burst into my mind. It was a memory from over 30 years ago, reflecting on my childhood, being in the center of a blended family. I suddenly experienced the intense emotion I felt going between my mom and dad’s house. It was strange for me, as I couldn’t understand why or how, after so many years, a simple thought could stir up so much emotion.

The memory I had was of me being around 12-years-old, and I was scheduled to go spend time with my mom, and I didn’t want to go. Now understand, I loved my mom very much and she was a wonderful mom to me. However, at the time, I just remember not wanting to go. So I chose to go and stay with her for only a few short hours, when it should have been the entire weekend.

As I thought about this memory, and why I was remembering the emotion behind it, I felt like God gave me a revelation to a question I’ve asked myself a number of times within my own walk in the blending process, “Why are there times when my kids don’t want to come over?” I felt like God just used my 12-year-old self to provide the answer. As I remembered this specific moment, I remembered not wanting to go to my mom’s house, not because of her or anything she was doing, but because of my own wants. My desires were that I wanted to stay at my dad’s house, where I was comfortable, where all my stuff was, and I could pretty much do whatever I wanted, since my dad worked a lot.

Looking back now at this 12-year-old, I’m amazed at how self-centered and oblivious I was of my choice and how it must have affected my mom. I never thought of how she must have felt as she waited for me with excited anticipation for our time together, only to have her son walk through the door being rude, acting unloving, and downright miserable. All this because I just wanted my way. Now being 44-years old, I know exactly how she felt because…I have felt it too-heartbroken, sad, and disappointed. One thing that stands out vividly, is how she still showed me love, even though I was being the most unlovable.

In sharing this, I hope to encourage you in your walk through blending your family, with a few takeaways from my own journey, thus far:

  •  Children have a tendency to be more self-centered. Most children are more focused on what they want, and think less of how their choices may affect others.
  • As the parent, you can choose to love your children through these tough times. How you choose to respond in these moments will have a lasting impact on your children.
  • As challenging as it may be, don’t take it personal. It is unrealistic to think your children can reason or understand as you can.

If you think about it, as God’s children, many of us act in the same manner. We have moments of being self-centered, unloving, and taking things personally. However, He loves us unconditionally, no matter what, always faithful to be there, as the Good Father he is.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Blended Family, Marriage & Family

Objects Are Closer Than They Appear

car side mirror showing heavy traffic

“Objects may be closer than they appear.” We have seen this so many times, that it has just become common knowledge. Most of the time we don’t even notice it anymore. It’s actually there to warn us about things we may not see-even our own perception of what we think we see-that could pose a potential danger while driving. This warning on the mirror assists us in knowing when it is safe to move into the lane we would like to be in. I can’t help but wonder how helpful something like this would be when it comes to our family.

As many of you “blended” folks know, it would serve quite useful if each person in our family had something on them, maybe some kind of warning label visible on their person, to remind us of the potential dangers of not building a relationship before trying to establish rules with our stepchildren. Many attempt to swerve right into the parenting lane without first establishing that it is safe to move into that lane. They assume this position based on their own perception of what they have seen or what they think this role should look like.

When it comes to disciplining stepchildren, we should tread lightly and do our due diligence before we do more harm than good. I know when we have children, many of us have said, “I wish they came with a manual.” Well, when it comes to stepchildren, many have gone before us and have laid out great wisdom for us to glean from, a sort of “manual” we can educate ourselves with. The problem is many skip this step thinking they know better.

Many stepparents make a huge mistake right from the start by trying to discipline too soon and, often times, too harshly. To provide you with another visual, it’s like a drill sergeant busting through the front door…”alright, these are the rules and you better obey or there will be consequences.” That may work pretty well in the military, but it rarely works in a blended family, and it makes building relationship with the children much more difficult. Establishing rules before relationship will lead to rebellion, which is what many blended families are dealing with and what causes so much discourse within the “husband and wife” relationship, as well. This is typically when many hear something like, “You’re not my mom”, or “You’re not my dad,” which leads to the dark road of bitterness and resentment. This is the place where couples begin to contemplate divorce, which will eventually lead back to where they started.

So, how can a stepparent set the family up for success in the area of discipline? We thought we’d share some wisdom we’ve gleaned from some of those that have gone before us, that we have applied and have proven quite successful:

  • Rules – Relationship = Rebellion
  • Relationship – Rules = Chaos
  • Relationship + Rules = Respect & Responsibility

To sum this all up, love first. After all, this is the example that Jesus gave us. This is what attracted so many to Him, and still does today. As a stepparent, it’s more important to build a healthy loving relationship with the children than to focus on fighting every battle. Though husband and wife should make these decisions together beforehand, allow the biological parent to dish out the discipline. The children will receive it better from them while still allowing the stepparent room to grow their relationship with the child. When the time comes, this will allow the stepparent to merge into the “parenting lane,” with less bumps while forging a smoother path for years to come.

Blended Family, Marriage & Family

Not All Bubblegum and Lollipops.

Life in a blended family is not for the faint at heart. Chances are you came out of a broken relationship. That means you are bringing some big expectations into your new relationship. Maybe you’ve told yourself, “I will never let that happen to me again!” or “I did it that way last time, so this time, things are going to be different.” If your like me, I came into my blended family knowing everything I wanted and everything I didn’t want. My spouse also came in with her own set of expectations, which posed a bit of a problem. was, so did my spouse. So it wasn’t very long before we started to bump heads. I had my way about things and she had hers. The issue was never lack of communication, as we have always been able to sit and have long conversations. The issue was that we didn’t know what we needed to discuss when it came to merging our two families together.  We were reactive when the issues came up versus being proactive and preparing prior to bringing the families together.

What we have learned over the years is to seek out knowledge and information from the right sources. Whenever you can, it’s better to talk about things and situations before they happen. This is not always easy, as some things you will have to deal with on the fly. However, learning as much as you can, early on, about the diverse dynamics of the blended family will only help you be better prepared for when the unexpected comes knocking.

We are also better prepared when we understand the other person’s expectations. Many of us like to assume we know what the other person wants or expects, which always causes problems. It’s simple…ask questions. If you’re going to succeed together, you need to fully understand each other’s wants and needs. Talk it out.

If you and your spouse have never sat down and talked about what the vision for your new family looks like, do it today. It’s that important. You wouldn’t get in a boat and just start heading out to sea without a plan would you? One thing is for sure, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Your family will not succeed if you don’t have a plan that you are both on board with.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Set a time and place for your meeting
  • Make sure you both are well rested
  • Prepare notes and questions before hand
  • Pray before you start

 

“We make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NLT