Step-families are on the increase and, with much love and hard work, a blended family home can be a happy and positive place to be.
1. Choose to commit to the children, as well as the marriage.
“We were in love and, wearing rose-coloured spectacles, believed that everything would be wonderful after we married. When his father and I had been just friends, Joe was fine. I didn’t anticipate the negative feelings I would have towards him after I married his father, or the guilt that followed those feelings. But I was determined to do something about it. Relationships don’t just happen; we need to form them. We had chosen to take on each other’s children, and now we must choose to make it work out.”
2. Find the balance.
“You mustn’t force yourself on your stepchildren. Physical contact isn’t natural at first. You have to earn the right to have that sort of relationship. I tried so hard to build up my relationship with my stepchildren – which went from strength to strength – that it began to seem I was leaving out my own son. To redress the balance, I took him away for a father and son weekend.”
3. Patience is key.
“We cannot make another person like us or love us, but we can do all in our power to reach out to a hurting child. They may reject us, but we should never reject them. They did not choose us, but we chose a package of partner and children when we married. It’s ‘hang on in there’ time.”
4. Dedicate time to bonding.
“We wanted to build on the time we spent together as a family, so we began to sit together every evening with a cup of hot chocolate, taking turns to say what had been one good part and one bad part of our day. We played board games at weekends, and splashed out on a three-week holiday, ensuring that it was just the five of us without contact with anyone else.”
5. Invest long-term.
“It’s like starting a relationship bank account with the child. You must put in credits – care, concern, attention, affirmation, fun, respect, friendship. Only then can you draw out the right to respect and discipline.”
6. It will not always be easy, but it will always be worth it.
“At the time, it was rough going. The breakup of my parents’ marriage was bad news. Then I came to accept it, and the remarriage of my dad. Gradually the relationship has grown, and I now see my stepmum as a blessing.”
Excerpted from Step-Parenting, June 2004, by Care for the Family. © Care for the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.
Article supplied with thanks to Focus on the Family Australia.
About the author: Care for the Family is a national charity which aims to promote strong family life and to help those who face family difficulties. Focus on the Family provides relevant, practical support to help families thrive in every stage of life.