By Susan Young
More than one half of all Americans have lived in a stepfamily situation. The truth is more Americans live in a stepfamily than in nuclear families.
That statistic is staggering and yet it has been something that we have not really addressed in the church. We simply don’t know what to do with a statistic that goes against our moral values. Only the facts are that they exist and that these families are the ones who sit in the pews of our churches.
I have to tell you that when I married my husband, who is the Senior Pastor of our church, and was a widower with two small children, I thought that the church would be ready for this. After all most of them were stepfamilies as well. They were not ready. Many left because we simply didn’t fit their definition of a family and they didn’t know what to do with us anymore.
God is good though and I believe that he has a purpose and plan for everything. He began to give us both a heart for stepfamilies. God began to show us that if we as a church are going to be relevant to this culture then He was going to show us a thing or two.
One of the first things the Lord showed us was that we weren’t special. We are a ministry family yes, but a stepfamily is a stepfamily and saved or not we were going to have to do the work that it was going to take to make the difference between fighting to stay a family or becoming a statistic.
So let’s first look at a few facts:
- One in two marriages will fail leaving children primarily living with their biological mother and visiting their biological father.
- Of these divorced or widowed families two-thirds of these adults will choose to remarry thus creating a stepfamily.
- Of these stepfamilies 60% of them will end in divorce. The statistic is even higher if the children are adolescents.
- On average it takes one year per age of a child to blend a family.
- If a stepfamily can keep the marriage together past 5 years they have a good chance of making it.
- The average stepfamily divorces after 4 years.
These statistics don’t change if a person is churched or not so it’s no wonder that we don’t know what to do.
As we go through this process of divorce and remarriage, many pastors are ill prepared to handle the counseling that comes along with this dynamic. This is where I think my husband and I are able to help. We’ve gone through a lot but we’ve also taken some really great notes!
If I could give you advice on blending a family it would be the following things.
- You are going to have to have a lot of patience. If you are the bio parent your family will be set up with certain routines that may or may not fit with the stepparent. You’ll have to work together to compromise.
- You are going to have to trust each other. Often the bio parent thinks the step parent is just out to get the kids. While this may be true in some situations, most parents I’ve counseled are really trying to get along. Everything however that is seen with suspicious eyes is met with question. Ask yourself if you are being overly sensitive to situations.
- Most bio parents carry enormous guilt over a failed marriage or the death of a spouse. This means they tend to parent out of guilt and so therefore there are a lot of behaviors that get let go in order to console a conscious. This will be frustrating to a stepparent and will probably cause arguments. Not only that but you aren’t doing your children any favors either. You’ll have to watch for this one. Check your motives.
- Most children will try to play one parent up against the other. Remember their allegiance is to their bio parents no matter how much they like you. This is normal and natural. It will be up to you, the adults to watch for this and communicate.
- A stepparent can’t be the parent no matter what. I don’t see myself as my stepkid’s mom, they had a mom and she died. I am at best going to try to be the best substitute there is. Now remember what the substitute teacher goes through in a classroom? That is what you can expect as well!
- Above all love each other and take your burdens to Jesus. He will walk through it with you.
I would love to tell you that life will be perfect and easy, it won’t be. I can promise that if you can gain each other’s trust and have the best interest of the family in mind, it will get better. Remember that God never hands you anything you can’t handle and He will guide you through even those tough times.