Whether you have a blended family because of death or divorce, there is always a challenge to bring two families together. Here are some tips for families that desire to honor God and pull two families closer together.
Start laying a good foundation before the marriage. “Except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it.” (Psalm 127:1) Ask the Lord to give you wisdom in dealing with the upcoming challenge. Work to build a good relationship with your future spouse and their children. As we will see later, the best way to love your new children is to love their parent. But that does not mean you don’t need to build a personal relationship with each child too.
Spend time together. Pray together. Have special, one-on-one outings with your new children so that you can build memories together.
As missionaries my wife and I have experienced culture shock. This is often manifested in a frustration and exasperation with the way the adopted country or culture does things. This will happen with blended families too. Being previously married, you have already experienced culture shock in marriage. Bringing a man and woman together is stressful and reveals how differently you two were raised.
Now, remember that you have more than two people involved with a blended family. Keep this in mind when the stress levels get high. Culture shock is a real thing, but thankfully it can be overcome with patience and God’s help.
You need to plan for how you will discipline all the children. Who will administer the discipline? Who will make the rules?
Whatever rules you set should apply to all the children. It is unfair and frustrating to children to live where there is no consistency in rules or enforcement of those rules. While we parents like Ephesians 6:1 (Children obey your parents…) we sometimes forget the command to us a couple of verses later. The Bible says, “and, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.” In other words, don’t frustrate them by lack of defined behavioral boundaries and inconsistent discipline.
Strong Dad and Mom
A marriage must be based on a strong relationship with one another. Don’t build your new family with the children as the foundation. Mom and Dad need to be united in their commitment for one another. Couples who focus their entire relationship on their children may struggle when the children grow older and leave the home. Parents can also be susceptible to manipulation (either purposeful or unintentional) by the children as they become more jealous of their parent’s attention and time.
It has been said that the greatest gift a dad can give his children is to love their mother (and vice versa). This is especially true with blended families. You can win your new children’s hearts by loving their natural parent.
Passionately love your spouse and you two can be supportive of one another when relationship storms plot to drag you apart.
Imagine how difficult it would be to have two jobs in two different banks. You have worked at both banks for years, but they just got bought out by two larger banks. You now have the same jobs you’ve always had, but policies and procedures may be changing on a daily basis. This is the situation your children find themselves in when you create a blended family. They had little influence in the buyout decision, yet they are forced to work within the confines of the new family structure.
Remember that your children may be dealing with two sets of parents, two sets of rules and two sets of discipline. Try your best to make the transition from one family to another as easy as you can on your children. They should still be expected to obey, but try to understand their frustration when dealing with all the new changes in leadership.
Unified – But Not For Destruction
Rise above the temptation to speak negatively about your former spouse in front of your children. It will not help them build a proper relationship with their other parent. While you may think that it helps win your children’s affection, it really erodes the respect they may have for you.
Also, do not plot against your new spouse and their children. You should work hard to build a strong relationship with your new children while loving their parent unconditionally. You may never win them over, but don’t be guilty of pitting your children against the new parent either.
Admit Your Mistakes and Move Ahead
Your children may be bitter with you, their other natural parent or their new parent. They need a good solid example to help them through their emotional struggles right now. You can be that help by being mature and admitting your mistakes.
Thankfully, we don’t need to approach God through a man-appointed mediator. We are grateful for our mediator Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). However, there are times when we need to confess our faults one to another (James 5:16) so that we can learn from the mistake and get help. This also helps to clear the air with questions your children may have and it permits you to move forward in your relationship.
Are You Ready For The Challenge?
If you are reading this it is probably because you are part of a blended family, going into one or struggling with the relationship you are currently in. Ask God to give you wisdom (James 1:5) and guidance. Spend time reading and studying Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 13. These are two passages that talk about how you can have a better relationship with those around you. I pray that God will guide you through this time.
Here are some more articles for Christian advice and tips:
The Holy Bible, King James Version