Step Up

Written by Dan Seaborn on . Posted in Local

kids2An estimated one-third of children will live in a stepparent home before the age of 18 and 50% will have a stepparent at some point in their lifetime. Approximately one-third of all weddings in America today form stepfamilies. An estimated 40% of women will live in a married or cohabiting stepfamily home at some point. There’s plenty of research and statistics that add up to a lot of families trying to assimilate but probably not blending.

Although some families do a great job mixing together, other families really struggle trying to relate. Part of the problem may stem from people trying to grow their new family too fast. They want instantaneous results having grown up in a click-here kind of world.

It takes time to develop a loving relationship whether it’s your own child or one who comes through adoption or marriage. I compare it to pudding. It might only take minutes to whip up some instant pudding, but with families you need to take a slow-cook approach. Start out on simmer and get everyone to gel before you heat things up. Don’t expect too much too soon.

Stepparents often think that because they fell in love, their kids will automatically love each other and simply get along. It happens when people get married too. Just because you love your parents and siblings, doesn’t mean your spouse will love them the same!

Stepparents need to respect the children’s timeline and feelings. They can’t expect the children to all come to acceptance at the same time or in the same way. Every child will be different. Remember that this child’s world has been turned upside down. Everything that represents security in their life is gone and they are trying to turn it upright.

Flexibility is an important ingredient when it comes to blending families because with so many different schedules to accommodate, nothing typically happens as scheduled. It’s his weekend, but she has a special mother/daughter event, so she wants to switch weekends. It’s her year to have them for Christmas, but this is the only year his grandparents will be around, so he wants to negotiate a change.

With so many variables, it’s impossible to plan on anything you plan. Although it’s very tempting for parents to want to stick to the custody schedule and not miss an opportunity to see their children, it’s important you allow your children flexibility to switch when something is important to them.

Couples should strive to focus on what is best for the children, not just what’s best for them. That means putting aside frustrations caused by the former spouse or other external factors and honing in on what will create the least amount of stress for the children. Parents must accept they will most likely not see their children every day and that’s a tough pill to swallow. It’s part of the prescription for divorce when kids are involved.

All of this, of course, causes tension within the marriage relationship. On average, couples in stepfamilies have three times the amount of stress of couples in first marriages during the first few years. This makes it all the more critical for a couple to make sure they take care of their relationship in the midst of all the drama that can occur.

If you operate and make decisions out of humility and empathy and allow the children time to adjust to their new lifestyle, there will likely be more blending and less areas of separation.

Author Information
Dan Seaborn
Dan Seaborn is the founder of Winning At Home, Inc., an organization designed to assist and encourage people of all ages and stages of family development. As a featured speaker at churches and large-scale events such as marriage conferences, corporate functions, and university assemblies, Dan Seaborn has earned recognition as a powerful and passionate communicator. Through practical illustrations and memorable real-life examples, he encourages individuals and families to lead Christ-centered homes.

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