I Hate You! -- Helping Stepfamilies Cope
CBN.com -- BreakPoint with Chuck Colson
-- Pastor Dick Dunn of Roswell, Ga., didn't pay much attention when a couple
in his church asked for help in dealing with hostile stepchildren. After
all, the husband and wife were strong Christians. Surely, he thought,
they could work out their problems with their two kids.
But then Dunn recalled how his own teenage daughter had nearly blown
apart his second marriage -- and so he began a program to help
stepfamilies stay together.
Dunn's story is recounted in a book called Marriage Savers,
written by my friend, Mike McManus. McManus says that stepparents often
feel as if they're sitting on a keg of dynamite. And who lights the
fuse? It's usually the stepchildren. They often scream at the stepparent:
"I hate you! You can't tell me what to do!"
And that's part of the reason that 65 percent of marriages involving
stepchildren end up in divorce court.
In his book Marriage Savers, McManus explains why stepfamilies
have such a hard time blending -- and how they can decrease their chances
of splitting up.
The fact that they're having conflicts at all often takes the newlyweds
by surprise. That's because during the couple's courtship, their children
often get along well with both the prospective stepparent and stepsiblings.
In fact, it's not unusual for children to encourage their divorced or
widowed parents to remarry.
But that initial friendliness often disappears the moment the rice
is thrown. Kids learn how to drive the stepparent up the wall, and they
often do it without the natural parent catching on. Sometimes, the stepparent
lacks the skills to deal effectively with the new spouse's children.
Before the newlyweds know it, their lovely new family has morphed into
The Brady Bunch from Hell. And they have no idea how to cope with the
It's for couples like these that Dick Dunn created the Stepfamily Support
Group. The group matches embattled newlyweds with couples who have lived
through the very same problems. These older couples teach the bride
and groom that volatile conflicts are normal in stepfamilies.
After all, the established routines, traditions, and loyalties of two
families are shaken to their foundations as the new family begins to
The experienced couples share their own stepfamily war stories. They
teach the newlyweds how to set boundaries with children. And perhaps
most important of all, the younger couples are taught how important
it is to set aside "couple time" for nurturing their own relationship.
Do stepfamily support groups make a difference?
Well, at Roswell United Methodist Church, some 400 couples have taken
part in the church's Stepfamily Support Group over the past dozen years.
Of this number, fewer than 80 have suffered divorce. That's a 20 percent
divorce rate compared with a nationwide 65 percent divorce rate among
You and I ought to be working to duplicate programs like these in our
own churches. You can learn more details about Dick Dunn's Stepfamily
Support Group by reading Marriage Savers. You'll learn how to
help turn snarling stepparents and stepchildren into loving families.
For further reading: Michael McManus, Marriage Savers (Zondervan
Publishing, 1995). Marriage
Savers Web site.
A list of Christian resources for stepfamilies can be found here.
From BreakPoint, 2002, Copyright 2002 Prison
Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint
with Chuck Colson" is a radio ministry
of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission
of Prison Fellowship, P.O. Box 17500, Washington, DC, 20041-0500."
Heard on more than 1000 radio stations nationwide. For more
information on the ministry of Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship
visit their web site at http://www.breakpoint.org.
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