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One summer of Bible teaching.
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Sit at Solomon’s feet for 6 weeks and learn how to live for eternity even when the pile of laundry seems to be blocking your view. Understanding What Matters Most-Making here and now count for then and there.
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I loved watching The Brady Bunch. Somehow it conjured up my idea of a perfect family. A happily married couple with three boys and three girls. For a little girl whose family remained intact until I was seventeen, I didn’t consider how that cute sitcom may have majorly minimized what really happens behind closed doors in a blended family.
I didn’t have a clue how inharmonious a home can be when trying to blend two completely different families into one. Perhaps The Brady Bunch left us thinking that Alice would make everything better with the help of the local butcher and some fresh-baked brownies. Or maybe it shed some light on the American reality of broken and blended homes.
But is that how the blended family life looks in real life? Does the meshing of two families into one happen as easily as writing ‘happily-ever-after’ into a script?
We all know real life isn’t as neatly laid out as a 30 minute television show. Even reality shows lose the ‘real’ in the midst of the story-line.
Occasionally, the blending of two families is like maneuvering a few puzzle pieces around until they slip into place. It may take a little effort, but it’s a fit.
Unfortunately, that’s not normally the case.
Most blended families find themselves entering uncharted territory without knowing what course to follow, what to expect along the way and without a planned destination. It’s not easy when there is no ‘one’ route that works for every family.
And since we can’t paint every family with the same brush, it’s important to consider the variables, the similarities and the goals.
Every family is different. The dynamics of each family that comes together to form one is different. Defining some of those differences will help prevent scripted advice to try to solve all blended family woes. Here are some variables to consider when you are entering into a blended family, part of a blended family or trying to encourage a blended family…
- The ages of the children when their mom or dad became a single parent
- How their mom or dad became a single parent (death or divorce)
- What the children went through while both parents were together (was physical, sexual or emotional abuse involved, or was it a long and nasty divorce?)
- How long the parent was single
- How old the children are when the single parent begins dating
- How often the single parent dates and what types of people he/she is dating
- How much exposure the children have to the potential future spouse (and step-parent)
- How focused the single parent is on getting remarried (does remarriage seem more important than parenting)
- How old the children are when the single parent remarries
Each of these are important variables to consider. Each of them explain why, when it comes to “How to Have a Happy Blended Family,” there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. These variables are also helpful for parents entering into the relationship to consider so that they can not only be prepared for some challenges they may face but also to begin undergirding the future relationship of the family with what is necessary for each family member involved.
SIMILARITIES FOR SUCCESSFUL STEP-FAMILIES:
Each family is different and navigating the issues of the past and establishing a solid foundation for the future will look different based on some of the variables mentioned above. We may not be able to paint every family with the same brush, but there are some similarities that can be found in successful blended families. Here are a few:
- The foundation of the family is their faith in God and commitment to live according to His Word
- Respect for all members of the family, including the children’s biological parents
- Their ability to love well (a great help is to use 1 Corinthians 13 as a filter for the way you love)
- Unity – That the parents (all parents) make a decision to be united in parenting
- Patience – Not only in the moment but for the long haul, patience to understand that change takes time, especially when intense emotions are involved
- Reasonable expectations are necessary for the family to begin to mesh well
- Give each other space when needed
- Fun – Be very intentional about having fun together
There are many other similarities that are characteristic of the development of a successful step-family, but these are some essentials.
You’ve heard it said that if you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time. Parenting (whether in a blended family or not) should be approached with goals in mind. When a blended family is seeking to homogenize it is important that they set some family goals in order to fortify the unity of the family. Families who dream and plan together tend to remove their focus from their difference and set their attention on doing things together.
- Plan a family vacation together and plan how you all can start earning money for the vacation
- Family movie nights (weekly, biweekly or monthly – gives the family something to look forward to together)
- Family game nights and family days at the park
- Children setting goals to make a specific grade and others in the family helping that child
- Saving money for college (both the parents and the kids)
- Building an addition on the house like a game room or patio
- Remodeling the kids’ rooms
- Gardening as a family
- Raising a service dog
There are a slew of wonderful goals you can set as a family depending on your own personal family dynamics are. But the goal is to set goals together so as you pursue those goals together, togetherness happens.
Being in a blended family is seldom easy. Sometimes it may seem like there are bumps in the road every step of the way. But it is important to remember that when parents enter into a new relationship, the children are pulled into it, ready or not. Parents have the overwhelming task of planting seeds of love and security in the hearts of their children while maintaining respect for their need to maintain a vital relationship with their non-custodial parents.
Sweet mom, your family may not look like The Brady Bunch, but if you’re in a blended family, you are not alone. There is help. Here are a few resources that can help shed light on your journey:
Winning the Heart of Your Stepchild by Bob Barnes
In Step With Your Stepchildren by Karen O’Connor
Are you a blended family struggling to blend? Have you considered some of the things mentioned above? Have you tried some things that have worked to bring unity in your home?