Stepfamily Rewards #Blended

Luke 4:18 tells us that he was sent to proclaim good news to the poor, the prisoner, the blind, and the oppressed. Jesus came to turn spiritual outsiders into insiders. All of us—you and me—were outsiders until his grace found us and made us his sons and daughters. One response of embracing this good news is humble gratitude.

 

 

When gratitude takes root in stepfamily members it can result in insiders (biological family members) making the powerful choice to embrace outsiders (stepfamily members). For example, when stepparents and stepchildren emulate Christ and invite one another in, something powerful happens. The uncomfortable outsider finds belonging, jealous and hardened hearts soften, selfishness dissipates in the face of sacrifice and love, and God is made central in that home. This is a profound reward every blended family would relish. But there’s more.

 

 

Healthy stepfamilies can experience many rewards including some of the following:

 

 

 

 

  • High quality marriages. Couples can create mutually satisfying, intimate, God-honoring marriages within stepfamilies.

 

 

  • A new marital heritage to celebrate. For children of divorce a healthy marital relationship can counteract the negative and destructive patterns of marriage they witnessed in their parent’s divorce.

 

 

  • Healthier kids. A loving, well-functioning stepfamily over time can negate many of the detrimental psychological impacts of divorce on children.

 

 

  • Shared respect and care between stepparents and stepchildren. Children, once empty due to the abandonment of a parent, can bloom under the loving care of a stepparent.

 

 

  • Experienced love, extended grace. When stepfamily members extend love and grace to one another and “bring the outsider in” they are emulating God’s grace to them. In so doing, children are blessed, hurts are healed, and the family is redeemed to God’s glory.

 

 

 

 

This is good news!

 

The Lord’s Spirit

has come to me,

because he has chosen me

to tell the good news

to the poor.

The Lord has sent me

to announce freedom

for prisoners,

to give sight to the blind,

to free everyone

who suffers

Helping Kids Caught in the Middle #Blended

To understand the behavior of children in stepfamilies (including adult stepchildren), you must understand loyalty and the natural tug-of-war it creates.

 

 

Cameron’s mom has been asking him for a month whether he wants to spend the majority of his summer vacation at his dad’s house or with his mom and stepdad, but she can’t seem to get a definite answer out of him. He talks in circles about where he’d like to be but won’t give her an answer. She’s growing impatient with him.

 

 

Loyalty refers to our devotion and attachment to the people we love. It refers to where we choose to put our allegiances. In stepfamilies, people generally place their first loyalty with their biological family members. Cameron feels caught between his biological parents and wants to spend his summer vacation with both of them. But to choose one means he can’t be with the other; it also it means jeopardizing the feelings of one parent should he choose to be with the other. For Cameron, choosing is a no-win tug-of-war.

 

 

Feelings associated with the loyalty tug-of-war often include feeling protective or defensive of one parent while spending time with the other, guilty for enjoying a stepparent knowing their biological parent feels left out, or sorrowful when embracing a new family means letting go of a deceased parent.

 

 

If a spirit of fear, that is, believing that loving one person will hurt another, places children in the tug-of-war, a spirit of love will take them out of many of their loyalty battles. Fear in adults dishonors the attachments of children, love honors them. Fear strives to keep children emotionally near for personal benefit (often an act of aggression toward an ex-spouse); love confidently gives them permission to love others knowing that they have enough love to go around. Fear pulls harder on the tug-of-war rope while love releases it. This is how you help your children find relief from the tug-of-war.

 

 

Biological Parents:

 

 

 

 

  • Give your children permission to like, respect, and love the many different members of their stepfamily. A mom might say, “I’m so glad you enjoyed your time with your dad and stepmom this weekend. I think that’s great.”

 

 

  • Ex-spouses should act civil toward one another. Criticism of the other parent, court battles, sarcasm, and an uncooperative spirit implicitly asks children to choose which parent they prefer or agree with.

 

 

 

 

Stepparents & Grandparents:

 

 

 

 

  • Don’t try to “replace” biological parents (living or deceased). The more you try to force your way in, the more resistant children tend to become.

 

 

  • Grandparents: affirm the new couple and family. Showing partiality to the original family signals to grandchildren that they should remain loyal to the previous family and not open themselves to the stepfamily.

Don’t mistreat someone who has mistreated you. But try to earn the respect of others, and do your best to live at peace with everyone.

Dear friends, don’t try to get even. Let God take revenge. In the Scriptures the Lord says,

 

“I am the one to take revenge

and pay them back.”

 

The Scriptures also say,

 

“If your enemies are hungry,

give them something to eat.

And if they are thirsty,

give them something

to drink.

This will be the same

as piling burning coals

on their heads.”

 

Don’t let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.

 

Step-by-Step Stepparenting #Blended

Stepparenting can be tough. Stepparents frequently report feeling confused about their role, displaced from their spouse when the stepchild is around, helpless to change the situation, and guilty because they know that God is expecting them to love their stepchildren, even though they sometimes don’t.

 

 

Finding an effective stepparent role is a challenge—you must persevere to find success. Here are some practical tips for the journey.

 

 

Relationship Building Tips for Stepparents

 

 

 

 

  • Play! Having fun is a great way to connect.

 

 

  • Track with them. Know what activities a child is engaged in and enter that world. Take them to practice, ask about an activity, and take interest in their interests.

 

 

  • Share your talents, skills, and hobbies.

 

 

  • Communicate your commitment. Let the child know you value and want a relationship with them.

 

 

  • Share the Lord and your walk. Shared spirituality can facilitate connection and a sense of family identity, but don’t be preachy. Instead share with humility your faith journey so they will experience you as a safe person.

 

 

  • The cardinal rule for stepparent-stepchild relationships is this: Let the children set the pace for their relationship with you. For example, if your stepchildren are open to physical affection from you, don’t leave them disappointed. If they remain aloof and cautious, respect their boundaries. As time brings you together, slowly increase your personal involvement and affections.

 

 

  • It’s important that stepparents not consider themselves failures if they do not form deep emotional bonds with every child. The length of time required to move into this role depends on multiple factors, most of which are beyond the stepparent’s control. Enjoy the relationship you have now and trust that investments made over time will increase affection and respect.

 

 

 

 

Do’s and Don’s for Stepparents

 

 

 

 

  • Early on biological parents must pass power to stepparents so that children understand that stepparents are not acting on their own authority

 

 

  • Parents and stepparents negotiate rulestogether behind closed doors and seek unity in leading the family. The biological parent then communicates the rules to the children with the stepparent’s support.

 

 

  • Stepfamilies, where both parents bring children to the stepfamily, still negotiate rules together, but each takes the lead role with their own children.

 

 

  • Over time as emotional bonds with stepchildren deepen, stepparents can become more authoritative and shows of affection can become more common.

 

 

  • Don&’t be harsh or punish in a way inconsistent with the biological parent. This tends to polarize parents and create marital discord.

 

 

  • Do focus on relationship building with each child. This is your long-term strength as a parent-figure.

Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us.

 

Protecting Your Stepfamily Marriage #Blended

God’s design for the family begins with marriage laying the foundation for the home.  But stepfamilies are at a disadvantage when they begin because the couple isn’t the foundation. Because parent-child relationships predate the new marriage and are bonded by blood, history, and family identity, the marital relationship is often a secondary relationship in the home instead of the foundational one. Unless your marriage becomes primary, you will continue to experience distress and instability in your home.

 

 

The process of establishing the couple as the foundation relationship of the home can feel like a win-lose situation for biological parents and children. It’s not. It’s a matter of significance.  Not that a spouse matters more than children, but rather that the marriage matters more to the stability of the home, than do children.

 

 

Children will never suffer neglect because their biological parent makes a strong commitment to their spouse, the stepparent. Couples in biological families where the marriage preceded children naturally sit “in the front seat” with one another yet still make plenty of sacrifices on behalf of their children. Even still the couple maintains their first-love commitment to one another.

 

 

A similar balance is healthy in stepfamilies.

 

 

Tips:

 

 

 

 

  • Set a regular date night and keep it. Prioritizing time for one another helps children see the importance you place on your relationship.

 

 

  • Support your spouse’s parental role with your children. Back them up and insist that your children treat them with respect.

 

 

  • Biological parents: spend regular one-on-one time with your kids and remain involved in their activities. This reinforces that they haven”t “lost” you and paradoxically makes acceptance of your marriage easier. This is the both/and balance.

 

 

  • Stepparents should insist out loud that the biological parent spend time with their children. This communicates that you are not in competition with the kids.

 

 

  • When children show signs of stress or anxiety as you “move your spouse into the front seat of your heart”, be sympathetic, but don’t let guilt put distance in your marriage.

 

 

  • When children challenge the role of the stepparent, respond firmly and with compassion. “You’re just changing the rule because she wants you to,” is a common complaint. Acknowledge the child’s confusion and move forward. “You’re right. Things are different now that Linda and I parent together. And if I were you, I’d be upset about this, too. But this is the new rule and I’m in agreement with it, so please abide by it. Let’s go.”

One day, Sarah noticed Hagar’s son Ishmael playing,and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that Egyptian slave woman and her son! I don’t want him to inherit anything. It should all go to my son.”

Abraham was worried about Ishmael.

 

How to cook a step family #Blended

 

Whether you realize it or not, you have a set of assumptions about how to cook your stepfamily. By that, I mean your approach to how your stepfamily “ought” to come together.  Brenda was cooking her family with a blender.

 

 

“It happened again the other night,” she began. “My 14 year-old son, Braden, walked in the living room and started asking me to help him with his math homework when his stepfather, Tim, who is much better at math than me, was sitting right there. Braden never asks Tim for help with anything. It makes me so frustrated. I told him he had to ask Tim for help.”

 

 

Obviously Brenda’s goal is to help her son connect with his stepfather. Her method of cooking is to force them together, much like what a blender does to the various ingredients, by pushing Braden to ask Tim for help. There is nothing wrong with Brenda’s goal, but there is something misguided about using a blender to force the ingredients together.

 

 

This “blender” cooking method attempts to force people to love each other, rather than allowing them responsibility to apply Christ’s command to love one another—in a gradual manner that is tolerable for them.

 

 

That’s the problem with many common cooking styles used by adults in stepfamilies: they tend to create pressure which inadvertently builds walls between the various “ingredients.” Food processor parents chop up one another’s history when they demand that stepchildren call their stepparent “daddy” or “mommy.”Microwave parents avoid labels like “stepfamily’ because they don’t want to be any different than biological families while pressure cooker parents insist that family members celebrate the holiday in the exact same manner.

 

 

Smart stepfamilies understand that relationships take time and that the forcing action of “blending” creates resistance, not connection. As the video suggests, they cook with a crock-pot. For example, if we could rewind Brenda’s run-in with her son, a crock-pot mentality might have calmed her anxiety and reminded her that since right now her son feels most safe with her, she should respond to his dilemma.  Over time, that might change as Braden shares more of himself with Tim and their relationship matures.  Asking his stepfather for help at that time will more comfortably flow from their bond.  Until then, Brenda should be patient with her son, not push too hard, and keep reminding herself that they aren’t finished cooking yet.

But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you.

 

Children Are Definitely Part of the Package #Blended

 

Couples who marry and form a blended family are often surprised to discover that stepfamily living is far more complex than they anticipated. They soon learn that their expectations for how quickly the family will harmonize were unrealistic.

 

 

 

 

  • Love doesn’t happen instantly.

 

 

  • Being previously married doesn’t necessarily equip you to be married to someone new.

 

 

  • Experience as a parent doesn’t adequately prepare you to be a stepparent.

 

 

  • Children are sometimes slow to embrace a stepparent’s authority and the new family as a whole.

 

 

  • And falling in love as a couple doesn’t mean children want to be a family.

 

 

 

 

Yes, children are most definitely part of the package.

 

 

Becoming stepfamily smart is how you prevent the unforeseen aspects of blended family living from sabotaging your home. This involves learning all you can about stepfamily dynamics and connecting with others in your church for mutual support. The trick is to work smarter, not harder, and walk with God each step of the way.

 

 

Your home can be a place of warmth, love, and grace. This series will help get you there.

 

 

Based on The Smart Stepfamily by Ron L. Deal. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Get smart about your stepfamily. Visit FamilyLife Blended™ at FamilyLife.com/blended

God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together.

 

Blended Family: Becoming Stepfamily Smart #Blended #AnchorFAM

 

Devotionals for the week of June 1st – 6th

The Blended Family: Becoming Stepfamily Smart reading plan provides practical, realistic solutions to the unique issues that stepfamilies face. Integrating a stepfamily is rewarding and at times challenging; but the odds of your success increase dramatically when you see a picture of how a healthy blended family looks and acts. Each day starts with a video clip of stepfamily expert Ron Deal speaking and includes scripture and written content.

Please join us each night at 9pm for this informational guide to being a part of a blended family. Watch for the hashtag Blended, or subscribe via email. You can also stay up to date with our social media outlets;

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