You’ve already been dealt one blow.
You married the one you loved, the one you chose to build a life with, but suddenly, that person is gone. Maybe your spouse was taken from you, through illness or accident; or maybe the person you loved the most chose to leave you, or you had to leave him/her. Either way, you’re left without a partner to with whom to navigate life, raise your children, do things with; you’re alone.But then, out of the blue, you meet someone new. This person is in the same place you are – going through life, raising children, doing everything alone. You begin spending time together, enjoying each other’s company. Your heart begins coming out of its isolation, realizing that love is possible again!
The kids are all introduced to each other, things are going pretty well, and you both decide you want to make a life together. You are both overwhelmed and overjoyed that God has blessed you with a second chance at love and life as a couple and a family. Something new begins: a blended family.
After the wedding and the combining of your two homes, this new life together becomes a bit challenging. After being alone and raising your kids alone coming together with a new partner isn’t easy. You realize your outlook on life and what’s important is different from that of your new spouse; the two of you don’t raise and discipline your children the same way, and both of you think your way is best.
“House Rules” become an issue. Then there are the “ex-spouses,” one or maybe two. No one seems to be getting along, not the kids, the ex-spouses, not even the two of you. You begin to feel discouraged, angry, insecure, confused; you feel that maybe you’ve made a big mistake.
Do you wonder where you went wrong? You believed that marrying your new spouse was a good thing, the right thing, something arranged and ordained by God Himself, but now, you’re not so sure. This blending of two families is a lot harder than you ever thought it would be.
Does this sound familiar? In many cases, this description, or something similar, is life for the blended family. Living life as a family can be difficult to navigate at times, but life as a blended family can bring challenging dynamics not normally seen in the traditional family unit.
Not only is blending two different families together difficult but often the two parents bring their issues from previous relationships into this new relationship as well. Hurt, rejection, unmet expectations, and other previous relationship “baggage” can accompany spouses into new marriages, making the dynamics in this new family strained, to say the least.
A blended family consists of two parents and their children from previous marriages or relationships. A blended family can include stepparents, stepsiblings, and halfsiblings – sometimes all of these are seen in a blended family.
In today’s society, blended families are very common, with 1,300 new stepfamilies forming every day. Other data shows that 50+% of US families are blended. Another staggering statistic regarding blended families is that 60-70% of marriages with children from previous relationships fail.
In light of this discouraging information, can blended families work? Is it even worth it to try? Yes, blended families can absolutely work! When beginning life as a blended family, or even considering it, patience and understanding for each member of the new family are paramount.
Spouses entering into a blended family must realize from the very beginning that transition is happening for everyone and each person’s feelings must be considered and validated. On the heels of patience and understanding is communication. As difficult as it may be, members of a blended family must be committed to communicating – expressing feelings and listening to other members’ feelings.
Without patiently listening to the feelings, needs, and insecurities expressed by the members of the blended family, acceptance and bonding are almost impossible. Although it is rarely possible to make each member of the new family happy every time, just listening and validating will make it easier to come to a compromise in each situation.
Blended Family Challenges
Below are some challenges that most blended families will have to face:
Blending family traditions Each member of the new family will have expectations regarding family traditions. Spouses should talk about family traditions first, then bring the discussion to the children. As much as possible, include traditions from both original families.
Where holidays are concerned, plan ahead with ex-spouses, communicate well, and be flexible. Treat all children in the new family equally in regards to gifts and start new traditions with the new family.
Helping children adjust to change
Change can be difficult for everyone, but especially for children. When blending families, make sure to consider the feelings of the kids, whether they are expressed or not. Make a concerted effort to make each child feel like he/she is a special, cherished member of this new family.
Possibly, new homes, schools, new schedules and even new friends will be part of building this new family. Be flexible and understanding of the kids’ feelings; validate them, and be positive.
While kids may be excited about having new stepsiblings, instances of sibling rivalry will most likely occur. Setting expectations early on about respecting each family member is key to managing this rivalry. Making sure each child has his/her own space in the home and celebrating the accomplishments of each child will make all children feel secure in their new family and loved.
Differing discipline stylesIt is very important for spouses to be on the same page when it comes to discipline in the new home. Although rules and discipline may not be exactly the same as it was in your previous home, a compromise can and should be reached regarding how all of the children will be treated, what the house rules will be and how each child will be disciplined.
It is always best to let the biological parent discipline their children and discipline for all children should be done in the presence of both spouses. The stepparent’s role is important and should be more of an advocate, friend or counselor, instead of the disciplinarian. Finally, spouses in a blended family must give much grace and not put unrealistic expectations on each other.
As believers, praying for wisdom and living a life of submission are keys to creating a blended family that not only honors God but also honors each member of the new family. Grace is absolutely necessary for every area of this new blended family! Just as in a traditional family, every moment of every day will not be perfect, but extending grace, mercy, and forgiveness will encourage each family member to love each other and continue working on new relationships.
Scriptures to Help the Blended Family
Below are some Scriptures to remember when blending families together:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:5-6
If you need wisdom, ask your generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. – James 1:5
And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. – Ephesians 5:21
God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. – Matthew 5:7
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – John 15:13
The blended family that is able to communicate well together and makes the needs of the other members of the family important is a family to be proud of! Creating this family can be difficult, however, and having a good family counselor can be a priceless resource.
Is your blended family struggling? Are you praying about the possibility of blending two families together? Seattle Christian Counseling can help! Contact us today and set your new family on the road to success.
Resources:US Bureau of Census, 2009
“Family on the Beach”, Courtesy of Kevin Delvecchio, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “The Fam”, Courtesy of Tregg Mathis, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bobbing for Apples”, Courtesy of Ashton Bingham, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “On the Dunes”, Courtesy of Juan Cruz Mountford, Unsplash.com, CC0 License