Did you ever notice how ‘The Brady Bunch’ got just about all their stepfamily challenges worked out in the first episode?” asks Ron Deal of Successful Stepfamilies. Ron works alongside a growing number of ministries coaching people to use biblical principles to overcome the challenges of blending families. Any home in which at least one spouse brings children from a prior relationship knows that it is much harder in real life than it was for the Brady family. That’s why blended families need to add an extra measure of intentionality, including several important steps. Step One: Recognize a Higher Calling Stepfamilies are an increasingly common family structure and the merging process includes unique challenges. Extra logistics and delicate emotional landmines are frequent hurdles often encountered when combining two homes into one. These and other obstacles must be addressed as you begin building a strong marriage and establishing a new family unit. Jesus’ example of laying down your life for others is a valuable model. Consider Paul’s words to the Philippians: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus; Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Philippians 2:4–7 All Christians are called to lay aside their own interests in order to serve others; especially those God has placed in your immediate family. Thank God for each member and the value they bring to your family. Step Two: Focus on the Children Family counselors stress that strong marriages set the stage for the relational health of the family. Although this truth applies to blended families, Ron Deal discovered that when couples initially invest in the children’s successful adjustment period, this emphasis assists in growing a strong marriage. This truth is especially evident when establishing a united parental authority in the stepfamily home. Unfortunately, children often see the new authority of the non-biological parent as unfounded and unequal. When a child’s behavior reveals this unbalanced perspective, stepparents are tempted to either bulldoze their way to a place of authority, or they passively surrender the parenting to the biological parent, resulting in a division of authority. Non-biological parents should continue to exercise an appropriate measure of authority but should seek to earn the child’s respect through a growing relationship rather than by demanding respect. By focusing on the children’s healthy adjustment, the parents display teamwork as they jointly lead the family. Ask the Lord for His power to display His patience, humility, and unconditional love through you during this blending season. Your intentional, relational leadership and unity will create a safe haven for your family to grow. Step Three: Allow God to Redeem Your Story“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” Joel 2:25 Every stepfamily provides hope for a redeemed story that displays His grace. Difficult chapters in the past can be replaced with God’s purpose and promise. These hopeful days do not magically appear; however, stepfamilies quickly learn that God’s guidance and plan for all Christ-following families applies equally to them. As they submit to God’s new calling, these stepfamilies discover that God is able to make all things new.
Recommended Book: Empty Womb, Aching Heart by Marlo Schalesky
Bellevue's Biblical Counseling Ministry offers free counseling sessions for individuals, couples, and families. Visit bellevue.org/biblical-counseling for more information.