Step families are different. A lot of people incorrectly assume they will look, feel and act like any other family. This then leads to a lot of blended family problems.
A remarriage with children is distinctly unique. Because of this, the way you approach it has to be different as well. It’s almost like a big balancing act. You have children you need to focus on as well as your spouse. Both groups need your attention. Both groups may feel uncomfortable with the other.
How do you bring everyone together so things start feeling more like a family? Well, let’s look at that…
A big difference in step families and nuclear families (mom, dad and their kids) is that when you get married, you have a closer bond to your children than you do your new spouse. That’s only normal. You’ve known them the longest and they are kids while your spouse is a full grown adult and can take care of him/her self.
Your job over the course of the marriage, though is to slowly start drawing closer to your new spouse and eventually to place that relationship above your children. Now, I know some of you may be getting really uncomfortable right now. Let me explain what I mean by that. I’m not talking about abandoning your children or ignoring their needs.
What I’m talking about is the natural order of relationships. We are called to put God first, then our marriage, then our family, and then everything else. A remarriage with children has this a little backwards in the beginning with the family coming before the marriage. Here are just a few of the problems with having it backwards:
Blended Family Problems #1:
Doesn’t allow spouses and step kids to develop a healthy relationship – When your children see you picking them over your spouse, they recognize they wield a lot of power. They can use this to make their step parent miserable. These two groups will not be on equal footing. This doesn’t allow them to get to know one another in a genuine way because the balance of power is off. The kids know you will always choose them and so does your spouse.
Blended Family Problem #2:
Your kids will become self-centered – If you spend your life putting your children first above all else, they will assume the rest of the world will do this as well. They will not truly grasp the concept that they are not at the center of everyone’s universe. This creates spoiled, self-centered and compassion-less children. They are not used to thinking of other’s needs because they’ve never had to.
Blended Family Problems #3:
Your spouse doesn’t feel “honored or cherished” – Do you remember those words? Most of you said those as wedding vows. If you always view your spouse as less than your kids, they will become resentful. They need to come first. The two of you are to become “one” and not let anyone come between you – even your children. Think of how it would feel this way – if your own spouse won’t stick up for you, who will?
Blended Family Problem #4:
Not the legacy of a good marriage to pass on – One of our main jobs as parents is to model healthy relationships to our children. If you are not honoring and cherishing your spouse, how can you possibly be modeling how to treat a husband or wife? Your children will not grasp the concepts of compromise and intimacy in marriage if they don’t see you doing it in your own.
This switch in roles MUST happen, but it should happen gradually and very intentionally. Your kids and spouse need to understand what is going on. The family needs to be very clear on where everyone stands. As you continue to strive toward creating a strong blended family, I encourage you to learn more about Step Family Success! It will walk you through some of the most common difficulties and how to avoid them.