Lets face it, the “traditional” family consisting of mom, dad, 2 kids and a dog is almost a thing of the past. While life-long marriages are good for couples and children alike, divorce is the reality for 40 to 50 percent of today’s families. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher. So how can you make a blended family that overcomes the odds?
First you have to have a healthy marriage. This is going to take a lot of hard work. Much harder than the work you put into your first marriage (obviously that didn’t end well). This time around you have baggage – they have baggage. You have kids – they have kids. You both have Ex’s. There will be no time for date night, quiet dinners or romantic walks along the beach. Nope. Your time will be spent dealing with step-kid issues and ex spouse issues. You will be working out the details of who will tackle the finances, who will bring home the bacon, who will cook that bacon and clean up the grease. Not to mention the never-ending piles of laundry – just how is that going to be handled. You both have to let go of the routines that worked for you in your previous marriage and even the ones that helped you survive as a single parent. You will have to come up with a new method for everything – something that works for the both of you. You will – at times – feel this marriage is doomed to be one of the statistics. But I encourage you to hang in there. After all, this spouse is sooooo much better than the first.
Next you have to make all of the kids feel comfortable, safe and secure. Remember, you want the next generation to grow into confident, healthy, happy, well rounded adults? The kind of adults who eventually move out of your basement. To do this, they have to learn the way of the world and be willing to go out into it. The problem is the kids don’t to want to “move forward”. They don’t want this blended family. They don’t want new siblings or step-parents. They want their “real family” back together – no matter the level of dysfunction. They didn’t ask for this and they will remind you of this fact daily. They will most certainly not make this easy for you.
You need to know up front that your new step-kids don’t like you. You will never live up to their expectations. You could be Mother Theresa and you still wouldn’t be good enough. They don’t want you to be their parent, their friend, their foe or breathing for that matter. You will be treated as if you were invisible – they exit the room every time you enter. You will swallow your tongue when you are dying to tell your step-daughter she is NOT leaving the house dressed like that. You get to smile through the endless stories of how great life was when their mom and dad were married. Just keep telling yourself you will learn to love them – you just need more time.
Your own kids won’t be any easier to deal with after you re-marry. You will hear how you’ve ruined their lives. You will hear how you have embarrassed them in front of their friends. How they can no longer remain friends with those whose mom and dad are still together. You will be blamed for everything from speeding tickets to heartbreaks. They will be disrespectful to you and your new spouse. You will cry behind closed doors and fake more smiles than you’d ever imagine possible.
Finally you need to make room for growth. It’s not only inevitable, it’s desirable. Your new family is not going to stay looking like this for ever. Eventually, your family will change. This could mean adding more kids – biological and/or adopted. It could mean getting a family pet or two. Sometimes it means bringing an aging parent or grandparent to live with you. It could even mean taking care of your children’s children (let’s pray against that one for now.) The fact is, you need to plan for growth. Preferably, it won’t be right away – everyone needs time to adjust to the new norm. It could take years but just when you think things are starting to settle down – things will change. Try to remember that growth is a good thing. Growth means life.
So, now that you have a grip on the challenges, how do you succeed at having the blended family that beats the odds?
5 things you need to do if you want a strong blended family
This is the most important thing you can do. Prayer is simply talking to God about your day. Tell Him about your struggles, ask Him for strength and praise Him for giving you a second chance to have a family. Ask Him to help each family member with the struggles they have. Pray for each family member by name. Don’t be afraid to let Him have it with both barrels if you feel like your sinking. He already knows your thoughts. He just wants you to talk to Him about ….. everything. Don’t worry about having the “right” words. There is no right or wrong way to pray. When you’re ready, ask your spouse to pray with you. Don’t push if they aren’t ready. Give it time. Keep praying alone and ask again every once in awhile. The next step is praying together as a family. It is the parents responsibility to teach our children to pray. Taking them to church is great, but you have to show by example how to live in daily relationship with The Lord.
The best book to rely on is your Bible. God’s word has more instructions on living a happy life than any other book on the planet. Reading your bible daily helps you develop the relationship needed for step one. Other than the bible, there are several good self-help books written by christian authors that will help you along the way.I recommend the following books for every family library – not just blended families:
– His Needs – Her Needs. Building an Affair-proof Marriage, by Dr. Willard Harley, Jr.
– Boundaries: When to Say No – by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
– The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
- Offer grace.
This not only goes to the disrespectful kids that keep trashing your house, the apathetic spouse who doesn’t seem to notice or the stupid cat who keeps walking underneath your feet. You need to extend some grace to yourself as well. Forgive yourself for snapping at the kids for not moving fast enough in the morning or for fighting over the remote. Remember that none of us is perfect and you are no exception. Stop comparing yourself to those parents on Pintrest who seem to have minions preparing their meals and doing their housework. Throw a Little Debbie’s in the lunch box and get on with your day.
- Get respite.
You have to plan for breaks. Date nights are not going to be what they were back in the day, but you need to schedule some alone time with your spouse on a weekly basis. If you want a strong family, you have to start with a strong marriage. You have to make deposits in the love bank.You also need some you time. Get out alone or go with a friend, to the gym or to the coffee shop – what ever it takes for you to rejuvenate your spirit. You have to take care of yourself if you are going to be any good to anyone else.If you don’t plan it – it will not happen. Respite does not to happen by accident. This may mean giving up your Starbucks to pay for the babysitter. No excuses, do it!
It may be hard to laugh when you follow little red foot prints along your white carpet into little Johnny’s room to find that he has painted his feet, legs and face with your “I’m not a Secretary” nail polish. It may be next to impossible to laugh when you come down stairs to find two little girls have made their breakfast all by themselves and your kitchen looks like a cereal bomb has exploded. It may be difficult in the mist of these minor catastrophes, but eventually you will be able to laugh. You will find that life is a whole lot better if you learn to lower your expectations and laugh at the small stuff. (It’s OK to take a picture or video of these events. It will actually come in handy later when you get to the point of wanting to re-live the experience. Usually around the time they bring home their first girlfriend. That will be when you really get to laugh. Baahhhhhhaaaaaaa.)