Christian Living


Can Families Really Be Blended?

Dr. David Hawkins - Marriage 911 Blogger

In a day and age of 50 percent divorce rates, affecting those in the church as much as society in general, more and more families are struggling with issues of his, hers and ours — children, that is.

Unfortunately, while more and more people are facing issues with “blending families,” few are actually prepared for the rigors and trials of step-parenting. In fact, this is perhaps the greatest issue facing blended families: a lack of preparation, training and understanding of the issues they will be facing.

Consider the situation. A man, previously married, has developed his own parenting style with his children, and the children are familiar with what to expect from their father and are loyal to him. 

Meanwhile, a woman, previously married, has developed her parenting style with her children, and they know what to expect from her and are loyal to her.

The man and woman fall in love and plan a life together, but forget that their children will join them in their new union. Often not thrilled about this prospect, children bring hidden loyalties, hurts and challenges with them.

Believing love should be enough to hold their family together, many stepparents forget to prepare for the challenges of raising each other’s children. Caught in the delight of a loving relationship, couples assume that blending a family should come naturally, and quickly. Failing to understand and manage stepfamily difficulties can lead not only to significant frustration, but in extreme cases can threaten the integrity of the marriage as well.

Consider this woman’s story:   

Hi. I need to talk to my husband about parenting. We are a blended family and have problems with rules with the children. We have argued many times over this issue. He thinks that I don't discipline my children like I should and I think the same about him with his. I almost feel as if he hates my children, and his daughter gets us fighting all the time. What can I do to get a common ground, and have a more peaceful household?

While there are no easy answers, there are several issues to discuss with your husband.

1. You are on the right track to talk to your husband about your feelings and perception of the problem.

Nothing gets solved by keeping your feelings to yourself. Create a environment where you will always share your heart safely with one another.  

2. Stop arguing.

While this advice may sound simplistic, agree to share perceptions in a way that won’t blame or attack your mate. A perception is just that — a unique point of view. You should not expect that you will see things exactly the same way.

3. Be careful with criticism about each other’s parenting styles.

While it is important that you agree on a consistent style of parenting, remember that you’re different people who have come together with different styles. It will take time to meld your different styles together, and in some cases, may never agree completely. That’s why we call the process, blending.

4. Be careful about allowing the children to be caught in the middle, or to put you in the middle.

It is important that you spend time away from the children, reinforcing your relationship, so that you can be unified for the children. They must not be allowed to manipulate you, as children are inclined to do. It is not only destructive to them to have such power, but destructive to the integrity of your marriage and family.

5. Discuss rules and consequences as a couple, developing a style of discipline that you both agree to — a common ground.

Be careful to allow the other parent to have input into how your children are disciplined, even if the biological parent assumes primary responsibility. While it never works to be overly critical of the other’s parenting/ discipline, your mate’s observations can be very helpful in pointing out blind spots.

6. While it may take time for the stepchildren to love the stepparent, (and sometimes this never occurs) you must insist that the children always show respect for the stepparent.

Showing respect for parents is a basic requirement for all children, and will help develop consistency and stability in your family. Children should never be allowed to put their parents down, attack them or abuse them in any way.

7. Go slowly, and allow time for a positive relationship to develop being children and stepparents.

Love cannot be forced, but more often than not, over time, with the right conditions, very positive feelings usually develop being stepparents and stepchildren. Remember, also, that if positive feelings fail to develop, and tension heightens, you should seek professional help. This is not a sign of failure, but rather of strength and wisdom.

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