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Columns : Relationships Matter - Cedric Beckles Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

Developing Healthy Relationships as a Stepparent - Part 1
By Cedric Beckles
Dec 30, 2009 - 9:32:52 AM

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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 battle.

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
a pastor, family/marriage counselor, motivational speaker and writer, who equips people  to establish and maintain healthy relationships.  Email bahamaslifeministries@ yahoo.com Tel:242-352-5268, or 352-5252

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