There was a time when a family was just that, a family. In our modern era, names have been given to different familial composition. One such is the blended family, which is usually a combination of two previously established families. Here, we are going to take a look at the challenges of a blended family. As always, the hope is that by loving each other, those challenges would be met with a united effort and thus overcome.
If you have never heard about a blended family, don’t feel badly. I only found out about it a few years ago.
Basically, the blended family is composed of the couple, their children (those that they had together) and children from their previous marriage/relationship. Here is where step mothers, fathers and children come in. Generally, the idea of step-whoever has negative connotations.
Together, let us examine some of the challenges that blended families face and what can be done to overcome them.
If you really love her
The biggest challenge in any relationship is love. Where love is genuine, and there is that willingness to make the relationship succeed, nothing can destroy it. The love that is of God can surmount any challenge.
Recently I read a quote, I don’t know who said it but it went something like this: “there is no barrier that true love cannot bring down”. I fully agree with the sentiment.
I also believe that in order for the blended family to succeed, the man of the family has to play a significant role. When I was about 15 or 16 I had a song on the jukebox that made a lasting impression on my mind. It also greatly colored my attitude toward getting involved with a woman who had children. My idea of how a man should treat a woman to whom he professed love, has also been deeply influenced by this song. Listen to the lyrics.
Though the song is a sad one, for it speaks of the break up of a family and a father wanting to hold on to his wife and children, the line that still speaks to me is the one that says: “if you really love her, the way that she’s in love with you, if you really love her, then you must love our children too”.
In my early years, I had no idea that my marriage would fail. So even though those words stuck with me, I always felt that it was for someone else. Later, after things fell apart, I found myself in search of another companion. The lady that caught my interest had a daughter. It was then that the true meaning of that song and especially those lines took on deeper meaning for me.
If I loved her, I had to love her child. And even though the relationship did not work out, more than a decade later, she and I and her daughter and I are still on good terms.
So if you are getting into a relationship with, or are already in a relationship with a woman who has children, if you want that relationship to work well, you must love her children, unconditionally.
This is the challenge, for depending on the age of the children when you entered into their lives, winning their love and trust would not be easy. But as the adult, you should be prepared to do all that is lovingly possible to win their hearts.
I suggest therefore, that before getting deep into such a relationship, that you sit and candidly discuss with your new ‘heart throb’, your ideas for parenting her children and she yours. Let her know your views on child training and have her share hers with you. It is important that you both be honest, even if that honesty leads to a canceling of relationship/marriage plans.
Over time, I have learned that it is best to know the truth up front and to make a decision based on that, than to lie. Once things begins with lies, they will have to continue with that foundation. In no way is that good for a relationship for the truth usually comes out somewhere along the way, and that which you had been trying to avoid by lying, happens anyhow.
Your attitude to this challenge would determine its success or failure. It may call for some compromise on your part, on changing your mind about some cherished plans and ideas, but, if you really love her, then it would prove worthwhile.
In the long run, she will love you more, they will come to love and appreciate you, and you will feel much better about yourself. You would have done it.
So love her, and love them.
If you really love him
Dear ladies/mothers, the principle outlined in the song above, holds true for you too. If you really love him, then you must love his children too. Just as they are when you meet them. If changes must be made in their character, it must come as a result of you lovingly showing them the right way. Any attempt to force character changes will be met with resistance and their father will be placed in a position of having to choose between you and his children.
In most cases, even if he chooses you, there will be a silent separation between you both for he will be blaming you for him having to give up his child/children. More so, when yours are still at home with you. And yes, the majority of men love their children and do not want to be separated from them until the appropriate time.
Again, the age of the child/children when you meet should be taken into account. My experience is that when the children are younger, it is easier to win them. That however, is dependent to a large extent on the type of relationship that they had – and still have – with their biological mother. If the relationship was good, then you may find that they may resent you coming into their father’s life.
Under such circumstances, constant love and enduring patience is what will win the day. You will have to show them that you love them and have their best interest at heart and that their mother would always be their mother. This would be best accomplished early in the relationship with both you and their father sitting with and talking to them about the changes that are coming to the family.
It should be made clear to the children what your plans are for them and how you intend going about making sure that this blended family succeeds. Involving them in decision-making would be helpful, if they are old enough.
We have all, I believe, heard tales about the wicked step mother. No one goes looking for that stigma and I don’t think that you want it either. Avoiding this requires a finely tuned balancing act. Sometimes it may appear that no matter how you approach the child you lose. This is where constant communication between spouses is crucial. At times as step mother, you have to discuss the issue with your husband, come to an understanding and step back and allow him to handle the situation.
Dealing with them justly is also needed and it must be seen. Even a perception of you being unfair can derail your efforts. So if you realize that they think that you are being unfair, seek to find out in what way and rectify it, if it is true and possible.
No matter the challenge, it should be seen that you both agree on the action to be taken. Efforts would be made to separate you, with daddy’s children turning to him and yours, to you. Don’t allow them to divide you both. If you have doubts about how the other would feel about a decision that you are about to make, it is best to pause and discuss it before acting.
If you acted and disagreement comes up, take the time to explain why you did it the way that you did. Try to avoid taking offense and being upset because he does not or didn’t see it the way you did. And let the disagreement be discussed when you both are alone, never in front of the children.
Again, let that enduring love be the basis of your decisions and your success rate greatly improves.
What do you tell your children
From the time you begin to contemplate a blended family, know that you are taking on a challenge like no other. Many have done it and succeeded while more have attempted it and failed. Many times, this failure can be traced to an inability to come to an agreement over the management of the children.
Soon after you decide that you are gonna link your life with this man/woman, it is important that your children be told. Yes you both are adults but your choice is going to affect them too, for the rest of their lives.
And while the final decision lies with you, it is good to hear their views both before and after meeting their potential step father/mother. You may be surprised at what your children may notice while you are blinded by your love for this person.
Once I introduced my daughter to a lady that I thought would be a good wife to me and step mother to them. After a few days of close up interaction she began to act and speak negatively to and of the person. Some time after there was an out burst from her toward the person. When I inquired as to the reason, basically what she said was that the person was fake. You know what? She was.
However, what you tell your children – both verbally and orally – helps to determine how they respond to your potential spouse.
If you tell them, for example, “don’t worry, you don’t have to listen to or do anything he/she says’, then you’re setting up yourself for a very contentious and stormy family life.
On the other extreme is the statement, “whatever he/she says, just do it”. That too is a recipe for disaster. Instead, have age appropriate discussions with your children. Let them know of the kind of relationship that you all are aiming for and what that requires. Encourage them to discuss all disagreements between them as siblings or with their step parent, with you both.
There may be times when you need to have one to one discussions as well. Encourage this for it will give your child confidence to bring any issue to you. This may prove to be very beneficial is the issue of abuse raises its ugly head. Please, in spite of how sweet the relationship may be developing, do not ignore this possibility.
It may not originate with the spouse – the typical source, but can come from one of the siblings. If your child knows that he can come to you with anything, then you may be able to nip the issue in the bud.
Keep in mind that they too must be led to buy into the principle of love for each other. Tell them and more so, show them what true love is. Love them up, now.
The estranged parent
If your blended family is to succeed and prosper, beware the estranged parents.
One of the strongest challenge to the blended family is that partner that has been left behind. He or she has the potential to make the happiness of your new family a real trial. More so if the ending of the previous relationship was adversarial. A weekend with the biological parent can prove a family disrupter when the children return to the blended home. One person I spoke to told me that in her home, it usually took two to three days before things returned to normal.
I suggest that, if at all possible, reach out to the biological parent of your step children. Seek to get to know them and to let them know of your good intention for their children. This may take some doing, but if you are able to win and convince them that you genuinely care for and love their children, then that part of the work would be made easier.
This is not always possible because the other parent may be holding a grudge and be determined to make life as intolerable for the former partner. If so, until things change, as the adults say, “you have your work cut out”. Under such circumstances, the focus must continue to be the demonstration of love for the children.
The fact is that many outside influences contribute to the success or failure of the blended family. Thus, they add to the challenges that come your way, almost daily. Another source of those challenges is relatives. They may include grandparents, uncles, aunties and even well-meaning friends.
Some parents continue to love their former son or daughter-in-law long after their daughter or son has moved on with their lives and have launched into the blended family.
As a result, whenever the child visits, they have nothing good to say about the step parent. Instead, they try to find the slightest issue to blow out of proportion. Some have been known to make reports of abuse to the authorities based on incidents that they inflate. This causes uncalled-for pain to the family, and if not rightly dealt with, can even lead to rift and destruction to the family.
In such a case, it would therefore be important that you speak to your family members and request that they back off and allow you space to live. Even here too, love must be demonstrated. It may even result in having to apply tough love which may result in that relative pulling away from you for some time.
Although I don’t think that this is the best thing, if it happens, work with it until a better way forward is found. The children should be told why things are how they are though, while letting them and the estranged relative or friend know that the door is opened for reconciliation. However, your conditions remain the same; no effort must be made to cause disunity in your family.
In such cases, your family comes first. Everyone should see and feel that love that you all have for each other. It is always so refreshing to meet a family where the love is evident and palpable.
I firmly believe that in spite of all the challenges, the blended family can succeed and be happy. I suggest that you stick to the basics and even when you may have to add to it, let the basics be the foundation of any further action.
What are the basics? A love that is kind, that suffers long, that is not envious nor boastful and seeks the best for the other person. Go here to find out more about this love.
So, you have chosen to blend your family. Good for you. Invite God even before you unite yourselves forever. It is only His love that can really keep you through the rapids and cataracts that you will encounter. Trust Him in all things and take all your challenges to Him. Follow His lead and you will end up on the shores of success.
I wish you the best.
What are your thoughts on this topic or do you have questions? Feel free to share and ask, I will be delighted to hear from you.
Let us keep loving them up now.