SIDEBAR: Key Steps to Stepfamily Success

by Ron L Deal

Pastor, here are some key steps as you work with blended families. Help these families understand these key steps. Doing so will help ensure their success.

1. STEP DOWN your expectations of how quickly your blended family will bond and find harmony. The average stepfamily needs between 5 to 7 years to form a family identity. In movies, love between adults and bonding with children happens quickly; in real life, it happens gradually.

Be patient with yourself, your marriage, and the children as they find their fit as family members. You cook a stepfamily slowly in a Crockpot, rather than mix them forcibly in a blender.

If still dating, slow down on a decision to marry. Kids need more time than adults to get used to the idea of a wedding.

2. TWO STEP. The couple’s relationship is by far the most important in the stepfamily home, yet it is often the weakest link. Make sure your marriage does not get lost in the blender.

Declare your marriage the new foundation for your home and balance it with a strong commitment of time and energy to your children.

Become a ghost buster. Identify and deal with any painful ghosts from a previous marriage, so they do not affect trust in this relationship.

3. STEP IN LINE as a parental team. Stepparents must focus on relationship building with stepchildren, and ex-spouses should learn between-home cooperation.

Ex-spouses who communicate well and cooperate on behalf of their children are also making success for the new blended family more likely. Put your differences aside and focus on being good parents for your children.

Early on, biological parents should continue to be the primary disciplinarian to their children while stepparents build relationship, trust, and respect with stepchildren.

4. SIDE STEP common pitfalls. Children need for stepparents to acknowledge their grief and understand it is processed throughout their lifetime. A child who says, “You’re not my mom, I don’t have to listen to you” is telling you about their sadness that mom isn’t here.

Maintain traditions when celebrating holidays and special days as appropriate while the new stepfamily creates some of their own unique traditions.

Money matters can be confusing. Discuss how you will balance being responsible for previous individual financial obligations while combining assets for the new family.

5. STEP THROUGH the wilderness with trust and determination. Remain dedicated to gradually forming a family identity over time, and everyone will be blessed. Remember, there is a honeymoon for couples in stepfamilies; it just comes at the end of the journey, not at the beginning.

6. STEP UP your faith. Spiritual resources help stepfamily members find grace for each other and strength for the journey. Also, a community of faith can support you along the way.