10 Keys to a Healthy Step Family
By Steve Arterburn
New Life Ministries
Being a stepparent can be very challenging. Steve Arterburn, of
New Life Ministries, offers these suggestions.
1. You must “connect” with the children at
their point of emotional need. Remarriage is a challenge
for everyone, but especially the children. For most children,
their parent’s decision to remarry represents the loss of
the dream that their biological parents will reunite. Even children
whose parents had a terrible relationship have the fantasy that
someday everyone will be happy. The grief associated with this
loss is painful and can last a long time.
2. Encourage your children to talk about their feelings.
You may not like everything you hear, but your children need a
safe and nurturing environment to respectfully share their emotions.
The best way to encourage your children to open up is to set the
example. When you are transparent about your feelings you foster
the security and trust they long for.
3. Have realistic expectations. Getting to know
each other will take time. You will not experience instant intimacy,
trust and respect. The expectation of quickly becoming “one
big happy family” will set you up for disappointment every
time. Hope deferred makes the heart sick… Prov. 13:12.
4. Establish new family traditions and rituals.
Every family needs to develop its own culture. By establishing
traditions and rituals for your new family you provide a greater
sense of belonging for everyone involved. Including the children
in the process will increase their level of support and cooperation.
5. Be sensitive to traditions that have already been
established in your child’s life, even if they don’t
include you. If your child has always visited their grandparents
for a week during the summer or spent Christmas Eve with their
non-custodial parent, don’t suddenly change those traditions.
The resentment your child may feel could undermine all your efforts
to create new, positive memories.
6. Don’t trash your child’s other biological
parent. By showing respect and civility to the other
biological parent you minimize conflict and actually strengthen
your relationship with your children. As bad as some situations
can get, control your feelings and comments. So then, let us pursue
the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
7. The marriage relationship must be a priority.
Every successful blended family has one common characteristic
- a strong bond between the husband and wife. Couples in blended
families have incredible distractions in their lives compared
to most first marriages. Ex-spouses, in-laws, financial obligations,
new schools and new homes can rock the foundation of the marriage.
8. Parents must clearly define and consistently follow
through with rules for discipline. Many stepparents tend
to be too lenient with their new stepchildren in hopes of winning
their acceptance and approval. This approach never works. All
children need and expect to have boundaries in place, and consistent
discipline is one of the most effective and powerful ways of communicating
love and respect.
9. Both parents must be involved in establishing the
rules for discipline. Parents must always present a unified
front when enforcing the rules. Children are very smart and will
try to figure out how to play their parents against one another.
Parents who don’t allow their unity to be broken are much
more likely to gain respect and obedience from their children.
10. Place God in the center of your home. The
ultimate key to every family’s success, no matter what the
circumstances are, is choosing to make God the centerpiece of
your home. To be the kind of parent or spouse you want to be requires
wisdom, patience and love. The best way for you to develop these
character traits is to have a vibrant relationship with God. But
seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things
shall be added to you. Matt. 6:33
Used by permission of New Life Ministries. New Life Ministries has
a variety of resources on men, women and relationships. Call 1-800-NEW-LIFE
or visit www.newlife.com.
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