- What do you call the sister of your stepmom’s mother—and who decides?
- Who has more clout: the 16-year-old who moves into the house or the 14-year-old who’s lived there for 14 years?
- At what point does “he” become Dad?
- Is John here this week and Rachel next week or was it Jake was here the weekend and John and Rachel are just here Tuesday and Wednesday this week and Friday through Sunday next week?
The first way of supporting stepfamilies is realizing they are complex. The more parties are involved, the more complex. But even a husband, wife, and two step kids is complex due to, for example, perceived parental authority issues (“you’re not my mom syndrome.) Be careful trying to fit stepfamilies into a birth-family mode.
The second way is to accept and normalize the non-normalness of it all. Encourage them that its ok if “normal” takes a while to form. Ron Deal, the founder of FamilyLife Blended, says successful maturing of a stepfamily requires a crockpot mentality, not a blender one. n
The third way to support stepfamilies piggybacks on the second way. It’s important to recognize that it’s normal for the kids to not be as thrilled about the new arrangement (or new person) as the parents are—and this shouldn’t be forced. Respect yes. Like and love?…over time.
The fourth way is to guide them to supporting materials. Ron Deal’s Smart Stepfamily materials are excellent. His group can also refer you to Smart Stepfamily Certified Therapists. These are counselors that have been trained to help couples and families wade through the choppy waters without sinking (or throwing anyone overboard!)
The fifth and best way to support stepfamilies is to remind them that God is fully supportive of their success. This can be challenging because too often church people make them feel less spiritual, unbiblical, outside of the norm, and like second-class families that aren’t true families.
These people forget that, technically, Jesus was in a step-family. They also miss Romans 8:1 that says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” If there was overt sin involved, 1 John 1:9 still applies, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Unfortunately, sometimes we have to point them to Christ in spite of Christ’s followers. Stepfamilies can have a tough road, but with our support, they can thrive.
As a Certified Smart Stepfamily Therapist, I acknowledge that the bulk of this blog is drawn from Ron Deal’s materials.