16 Sep Healthy Steps to Family: A Blended Family Q & A
Today is National Step Family Day!! So if you are a blended family, bonus parent, step-something, this post is especially for you. If you are not in any of these categories, please stay with us as there are universal truths here for you too.
Cultivating new relationships is difficult in any scenario, but trying to merge two families takes an extra measure of care. Here to give us some “tried and true” advice are Your Morning Walk’s own Magan and Derek.
Both Magan and Derek parent in blended families and have graciously allowed me to ask them some questions about their experiences.
1) What is your best advice for families who are ABOUT to unite?
Derek: Give grace. It’s a learning process for everyone. There will be mistakes and lessons, so grace is much needed.
Magan: Remember, this is a HUGE change for everyone. Even if it’s a positive change, it can really throw us off. Don’t rush everyone to be on the same page.
2) What do you wish you had known or done to prepare your family better?
Derek: I wish I had known that there is no “one size fits all” plan. What works for us might not work for the next. What schedule or holiday plan works for someone might not work for me or someone else. It’s not universal. Take what works, innovate, or change what doesn’t.
Magan: I wish I would have known that even positive change can cause a lot of anxiety that wasn’t present when we were two households. Let everyone adjust at their own pace and don’t force things.
3) What is your best advice for families that have already merged, but it isn’t going well?
Derek: Have the hard conversations, have a counselor there, or someone the family trust to mediate and talk through feelings, situations, and resolutions.
Magan: Seek a Christian counselor, someone not on the inside, to share and help with the things you are struggling with. It’s a good idea even if things are going well.
4) What fun traditions or activities have you incorporated to help unite the family?
Derek: We watch a movie, play board games or card games, or plan a fun dinner or activity. Having fun, laughter, and food is always good for unity.
Magan: We always try to sit down and eat as a family. We have started a Christmas movie night. We do this on a night we are all together with our parents as well.
5) How do you navigate the holidays?
Derek: We made it a priority to make our own family traditions and keep them sacred and special. Christmas might not be on Christmas, but it will be ours and how we always do it.
Magan: My daughter is always with us, so we try to navigate most holidays around when we have my husband’s daughter. It always works out. Both parents are very flexible, which really works out best for the kids.
6) While staying sensitive to those involved, what has been the most challenging part of blending?
Derek: Finding a balanced schedule, with youth sports, boy scouts, church, friends, school, and work. It’s easy to get overwhelmed as a family on the go. But we make time to spend with each kid one on one. If that means we drive separately and swap kids–like one rides with me this time and the other next time that’s what we do. It builds the bonds and lets voices be heard. But we also make family time a priority, and we support each other in the busyness too.
Magan: Remembering that everything our girls knew has changed and being sensitive to their feelings. Remembering, sometimes, one of the kids may need time alone with their parent and making time for that.
7) Any thoughts or words of encouragement?
Derek: My oldest always asks to ride with my wife (his bonus mom) when he has “the tough” questions about life. It can be about alcohol, death, pregnancy, and whatever. We always chuckle when he asks to ride with her wondering what his little mind is chewing on.
Final Thoughts: Something I learned teaching Divorce Care for Kids
In a few cases, children were put in the Divorce Care class to help them work through their parent’s divorce because one parent wanted to remarry, and the child was not receptive. In most cases, the rejection of the bonus parent, no matter how great they were, was more of a statement of not wanting the divorce in the first place than the new person’s rejection. In their mind, accepting the new person meant saying they approved of the divorce.
This, obviously, caused a lot of tension in the family, but getting to the root of the problem and acknowledging the child’s feelings was helpful for the family moving forward. Children don’t view the divorce or their parents the way we think they do or think they should. It’s important to let them process through the events in their own way but offer guidance to make sure it’s healthy.
As Derek said, there is no one size fits all plan for blending families. But, making each person feel valued and heard is always a great place to start.
Thank you to Derek and Magan for sharing with us today.
If you have any questions or words of encouragement for Step Families, please leave us a comment. We’d love to hear from you.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God,
who gives generously to all without reproach,
and it will be given him.”
Relatable Songs to Listen for on Walk fm:
Dear Younger Me – Mercy Me
The Blessing – Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes
Keep Me In The Moment – Jeremy Camp
Graves Into Gardens – Elevation Worship
Love – We Are Messengers
One Day – Cochren and Company
Grace Wins Every Time – Matthew West
Susan E. Greenwood is a wife, a mother, and a mother-in-law :D. She has over 28 years experience in youth and children’s ministries. Susan loves to write blogs, articles, devotionals, and curriculum. She has blogged for bible.org, and authors Mary Demuth, Lynn Cowell and Ruth Schwenk. Susan writes regularly for skitguys.com. Her passion is to help people live their Life In Stride with the Word of God.