Most of us are familiar with the ever-so-popular Disney movie The Parent Trap (if you're my age, you remember the original one). The tale of two young parents who divorced when their twin girls were just babies. Conveniently, there were two kids so each parent took one and raised them.
Apparently all of the young girls' lives they never asked about their mom or dad until they attended camp one summer where surprisingly they met and then.....wait for it....
The plot thickens as the girls get to see what it is like to have a chance with the parent they had been missing all of their lives. It even gets a little sticky when a "soon-to-be" step mom enters the picture. Right away this was seen by the girls as threatening and was a situation that must be stopped at all cost.
By the end of the movie, the girls were so in love with the thought of a chance at having a complete family that they were able to recreate a romantic evening where their parents remembered why they were once in love in the first place and decided then and there that they couldn't be apart (or the parenting plan suddenly became too complex so they thought, what the heck, let's give it another shot!). Queue the wedding bells.
If Only Parenting, Divorce and Reunification Were That Easy
Disney has a great way of doing that, don't they? I mean, their platform is that they ARE the most magical place on earth. Then there are the other movies we have all seen that can really scare kids (and parents) about what life is like when the "step-parent" arrives on the scene. Anyone seen Cinderella??
Reality Check Please!!
The fact of the matter is it can really go either way. A blended family, step-family, or whatever term you want to give it CAN be a blessing OR it can be a nightmare.
I know...I've lived it here under my own roof (still truckin' along this path I might add)
and I have counseled many parents and children who are facing divorce, going through a divorce, or are on the other side of divorce and now are in a blended family.
The truth of the matter is, whether you are the biological parent, the step-parent, or the child, life in a blended family can be just plain HARD. So many different areas to navigate such as feelings, emotions, baggage, rules, discipline, and who is really the one in charge.
I remember one client years ago saying to me in a session (she was a step-mom) "If you ever have any other clients who are thinking about marrying someone who has kids from a previous marriage, tell them not to do it!! It sucks". At the time I was early into my years in private practice and I can plainly remember thinking she was harsh and overdramatic.
Fast forward almost 15 years into my own life since then, finding myself divorced, remarried and then widowed, and now remarried again (yep..you counted correctly...that's a total of 3), I completely and wholeheartedly understand what she was saying. And you know what....
SHE WAS RIGHT!!!
For the most part anyway. However, I have also learned that
It doesn't HAVE to.
There are some basic, fundamental parts to a blended family that MUST exist within the adult realm if the blending is to ever take place and for the family to not just remain broken.
- Be Intentional/Engaging
- Be a listener (communication isn't just about being the one who does all the talking)
- Be the adult, always (resisting coming down to the kids' level in a negative way)
- Find friends who are doing blended family life successfully (blended family mentor)
- Check the "spec in your own eye", constantly (get yourself into counseling if you need to)
- Do life with those in your home with Empathy
- When you mess up, be willing to own it (it takes you miles with others in getting respect)
Breaking it Down......
Moving forward each week I am going to address each one of these areas for success in a blended family. From my own personal experience to watching many stories unfold before me in my office, I have heard and seen it all. I want to take what has worked and frankly, what has not worked, and get it out there for other families to have.
Why Re-Invent the Wheel??
Each one of the areas I listed above are vital to the success and growth (sustained success) of a blended family. Don't misunderstand....just like a nuclear family there are still going to be ups and downs...bumps and bruises (figuratively speaking of course), but the overall health, wellness and vitality of the family will be strong if BOTH of the parents make sure they are implementing the above factors.
I am excited to share this information with you and hope that you will find strength, comfort and encouragement as we navigate through these waters together of going from Broken To Blended...and All The Steps In Between.
What about you? Part of being a community is sharing ideas and thoughts with each other. We can always learn something from someone else's journey. I would love for you to respond and write in below with tips you have or even questions you would like addressed in this series. Is there a particular area in step-family living that you would like to see addressed? Respond below and let me know.
"Seek Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly With Your God".....
Servant of the King,