A blended family celebrates the commitment of two people who love each other and bring together at least two different families. Each partner brings into their marriage their hopes and dreams of what their family together can become.
But every blended family has its ups and downs.
After all, every person comes into a marriage with baggage. And for someone who brings children into a marriage, there is often a lot more baggage. Most new couples quickly learn that “two becoming one” (Genesis 2:24) is a journey that takes time, requires the ability to communicate well and manage conflict effectively. If that is not enough, becoming a stepparent at the time of marriage can carry an enormous sense of responsibility.
The stepparent’s role is often one where they give unconditional love with no expectation of being loved in return. A stepparent differs from the child’s biological parent. Stepparents cannot, and should not, attempt to replace or undermine the child’s biological parent.
In blended families, a child fears rejection and loss of the biological parent’s love. Often, there are behavior changes in the child around the time to transition to the other home. Wise stepparents will notice this shift in the child and be understanding. Having a well-defined—but not rigid—structure in the home can help the child learn to adapt to the differences between the two homes is very important to the child’s well-being and the family.
Parents of blended families need to work out conflicts that involve the children privately rather than in front of the children. It is usually best when parents and stepparents speak with one voice to the child to ensure the message they receive is consistent.
For that reason, parents in blended families must work things out with the other household. Seeing a licensed, Christian counselor can help blended families learn how to work together. If it’s not possible to work with the other stepparent and family, they can continue to do their part to protect and enhance the child’s safety, stability, and security and support the child as they grow into the person that God created them to be.
Stepparents need to understand that they can only control what happens inside their own home, and they must do their best not to say anything negative about the biological parent in the presence of the child. Instead, the stepparent should say something positive about the child’s biological parent or the other stepparent when they can.
Boundaries in blended families need to be more permeable than those of the traditional nuclear family to allow family members to move freely between other family systems to which they have connections.
Remember that no one is perfect, and mistakes are going to occur. A blended family will come together when parents give themselves, their spouses, children, and stepchildren the grace they need to heal and move forward.
by Toni Dunning