One of the most challenging
and complicated problems facing families today is the issue of developing
and maintaining healthy relationships with stepchildren. Undoubtedly,
many new spouses must feel, upon entering into a stepfamily situation,
that they are suddenly expected to act like Superman and "leap
tall buildings with a single bound."
Though stepfamilies may
look like traditional nuclear families on the outside, the dynamics
on the inside are very different. Two completely unique family cultures,
two completely different sets of traditions, two completely different
ways of dealing with issues must now reach happy (or at least peaceful)
coexistence in one family.
Think about it: Roles
for everyone are jumbled and confused … responsibilities are
not clear cut as they usually are in a traditional family … activities
once taken for granted (disciplining children, media and recreation
choices, purchasing gifts, etc.) must now be reconsidered in light of
their impact on new family members. Even something as basic as what
titles you should use for each other needs to be discussed and decided
upon as a family.
As a Christian stepparent,
your ultimate goals should be no different from those of any other Christian
parent. You should seek to honor Christ in your life, and you should
seek to teach and model biblical principles to your children and help
them apply those principles to their lives. Your challenge is how to
reach those goals.
Following are a few suggestions
for how you can work with your spouse to create a family environment
where adults and children alike are faithfully growing and learning
to apply God's principles in your lives. Note that, while several of
these suggestions apply to any family, you will need to find special
ways to apply them in a stepfamily situation.
Make your marriage
your top priority in family relationships
Step parenting is often
hampered by a new couple's lack of commitment to build a strong marriage.
Many remarried couples have experienced the truth of Jesus' words in
Matthew 7:24-27. Because of the unusual pressures they face,
a new husband and wife who have children from previous marriages often
have virtually no honeymoon period to concentrate on building a strong
foundation for their marriage. So when the storms of a stepfamily hit
the home, many couples crash and experience divorce quickly—often
within the first two years.
Your marriage is the
most important relationship in your home. Why? First, because
it sets the tone for the stability and security of the home. Your children
need to experience this type of stability, and they need it. They also
need to see a model of what God's design for marriage should look like.
Second, you will draw strength and unity from your marriage relationship
more than any other human relationship. Your spouse's encouragement
will help you keep going despite the flack you might be taking in the
Teach and model sacrificial
love in all your relationships
As children go through
the pain and bitterness of divorce or death of a biological parent,
and as they wrestle through their emotions watching their parents marry
someone other than their biological parent, their understanding and
perception of love is seriously challenged. Feelings of disappointment
and anger may surface in children who are suddenly forced to adjust
to a new family after separating from their biological parent whom they
deeply love and care for. … The loss of a special relationship is
one of the deepest psychological losses experienced."
Some children will take
the blame for their parents' divorce and will think, "My parents
don't love me." Others may be asking, "What is love? Is there
really any such thing?" As doubt and cynicism set in, children
often reject expressions of love toward them—not only from their stepparents
but even from their biological parents.
This is why it's critical
that parents both teach and model sacrificial love in their relationships.
John 15:12-14 says:
"This is My commandment,
that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has
no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are
My friends if you do what I command you."
Stepchildren may need
to be reintroduced to this type of love. As they hear parents communicating
and modeling Christ's love, the recent, imperfect examples of love will
slowly but surely fade into the background.
About the Author: Cedrick Beckles is
family/marriage counselor, motivational speaker and writer, who equips
people to establish and
maintain healthy relationships. Email bahamaslifeministries@
Tel:242-352-5268, or 352-5252