You’re in love. You’ve dated a while and know you’re meant to be together. What’s more, it feels so good to know you and your children will finally have a complete family unit.
But wait! In reality, you have a family unit – a single parent home in which you have a rhythm and flow. That is soon to change.
Are you Ready?
No offense but likely not. Creating a healthy stepfamily requires a lot more than just getting married and moving in together. Creating a healthy stepfamily requires intention, understanding, patience, determination, commitment, and prayer.
Where to Start
For now, let’s explore one common myth:
Myth: A successful stepfamily functions the same as a successful traditional family.
This simply isn’t true. Why? Well, here are two reasons for starters:
- Step-families are more complicated and complex leading to more influences in your life and more influences in the lives of your children.
- In a traditional family the couple pre-exists the children. In a stepfamily there are children that preexist the couple. Therefore, there can be a natural tendency for parent/child bonds to override the bonds of the newly formed couple. This also means that the step-children don’t automatically see step-parents as authorities in their lives. (These topics will be covered more in future posts.)
One blog post can’t do all of the ends and outs of a stepfamily justice so I’ll give you three tips to ponder for now.
- Re-think Your Role. Realize that your role in a stepfamily will not be the same as your role has been as a single person or as a single parent, especially as it relates to your stepchildren.
- Realize that there’s an innate difference between parenting and step-parenting. Step-parents can play an important role in the life of a child but a marriage certificate does not instantly grant you the same authority as a birth parent. Building relationships with your stepchildren takes time.
- Commit to the marriage and family. Creating a fully integrated and successful stepfamily is a process that can take years. Decide within yourself that the process is worth it even if it gets overwhelmingly frustrating. Ask God to strengthen you and guide you to a successful stepfamily.
Set Your Mind
If you’re already a stepfamily, set your mind to learning about the dynamics of successful stepfamilies and seeking to implement them in your own life. Make a commitment to yourself, your spouse, and to God that you will stick through the challenges and make your marriage work.
Statistics indicate that two-thirds of stepfamilies end in divorce. Your marriage doesn’t have to be one of those.
If you’re not yet married, take plenty of time before you marry to explore the dynamics of a successful stepfamily. Talk with the person you are considering marrying and be sure that person is willing to join you in this venture. There will still be bumps along the road but you’ll be well on your way to making your step-family work.
Renee Smith Ettline is stepmother of two daughters, author of the award-winning book, Peace after Divorce, and founder of After Divorce Ministries, LLC. Renee’s articles can be found in various magazines and her blog posts every Friday morning on the After Divorce Ministries website. You may reach Renee by using our Contact Us form.
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But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.