Are Your Children The Real Problem in Your Blended Family?
Moe and Paige Becnel
In 98% of our discussions with couples in blended families, the subject eventually turns to problems the parents are having with one or more children in the new family. Children are often seen as "the problem", or one of the major problems – poor grades, depressed, uncooperative, sad, disrespectful, unmotivated, hanging out with bad influences, drugs, isolating themselves, to name a few.
There are always two sides to a story, and we offer you a view from the children's perspective. We read a story about a firefighter who was fighting a forest fire. As he walked through the charred forest, he saw a bird with its wings spread out at the base of a tree. It caught his eye because it moved. As he looked closer, he found that the bird was obviously dead because its body was charred, but beneath the bird was a baby bird that had survived. The mother bird had sacrificed itself so that her baby could live. Other animals display “unto death” protection of their young. There is not a more aggressive animal than a female grizzly bear protecting her cubs. A herd of elephants will circle the young in the herd when a threatening situation occurs.
Children from Broken Homes
Children in blended families do not live that same experience. They are innocent victims of either losing a parent to death, or wounded by at least one of their parents who decided to divorce. Home life evolves to one or two single-parent homes.
Children of divorce are often hurt by hurting, selfish, or angry parents. They pack bags and travel for visitation, often hear a parent speak negatively of their other biological parent, and at times are used by a parent as a communication tool to avoid having to speak to the former spouse. Rejection or even abandonment by one of their parents is often an undeserved reality.
Children in Blended Families
With this in mind, it is not surprising to us when children respond negatively to a parent remarrying. We have heard from many couples that their children were fine, but their attitudes changed dramatically after the wedding. We have seen children have an emotional meltdown during the wedding and reception.
The day a parent fulfills their dream to remarry and build a new life is the same day the children’s dream of mom and dad reconciling dies.
Usually the new blended family occurs before some or all of the children have found healing for the hurts from the previous broken home. One or both biological parents may have moved through the healing process - or think they have - and are ready to remarry and build a new life. However, children may still be dealing with pain from the previous divorce or death of a parent.
Parents typically think that if they are healed, their children are healed, that children are resilient, and they bounce back. The truth is that children don’t bounce; they splat just like adults do. The remarriage places the children in a new family that they did not ask for, with a new parent figure, a new home, possibly new (step) siblings, new schools, losing old friends and having to make new ones.
In the blended family, children usually experience a multitude of emotions. A few are:
- Wanting their biological family restored, or at least wanting the single-parent home again,
- Hearing strife between biological parents,
- Feeling rejection by the parent who left,
- Competition between them and the new people in the home for their biological parent’s time and attention,
- Identity shifts in the new family (no longer the oldest or youngest),
- Fear of another home life failing (the last one did, right?),
- Resistance to the involvement or discipline by a stepparent who does not yet love them,
- Favoritism which is more prominent in blended family homes (until hearts of acceptance are established),
- Unforgiveness toward their biological parent(s), and not knowing how to forgive,
- Swings of anger, frustration, sadness, resentment, numbness, jealousy, hate, and so on.
We have identified 19 different reasons why children resist connecting to their blended family (there are probably others). We doubt if a child will experience all 19, but it is highly likely that a child will have more than one reason.
You Are Responsible
“Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3
Children in blended families are also a reward from Him. They are not extra baggage, someone else’s problem, or along for the ride. God hates divorce, but He deeply loves people who have divorced. He forgives people of their sins that destroyed a relationship, His wonderful grace gives people a 2nd chance to build a 1st class marriage and family. In remarriage, that 2nd chance comes with children not born to us. Stepparents are to love, care for, provide for, encourage, defend, teach, edify, and guide.
Parents and stepparents need to be sensitive to all the children - to what they are feeling, and to what adults put them through. We are not advocating that parents have to live their entire life for their children. We are advocating that God expects parents to love, nurture, and protect the children at all times, not just when it is convenient.
We need to help our children find their healing from past hurts. Many need their biological parents to forgive each other. They need help learning to:
- Forgive those who hurt them
- Manage their anger
- Trust people again
- Sense that there is abundant life ahead
- Quit looking at their past, and look forward to the new thing God wants to bring them into.
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19
Your life may never be the same after experiencing divorce or death of a spouse and parent, but your life can be better! The book of Job in the Holy Bible is an incredible story of a man who lost everything. But because he loved and served God, God restored to him twice as much as he previously had. His life was never the same; he probably had scars on his body from the sores and on his heart from the loss of loved ones. But his life got even better! Scars are not bad - scars appear after healing has taken place.
God is always trying to do something new in our lives and in our children’s lives. The blended family can be a great place for your children. It can be a positive, Godly influence to you and your children. It is the biological parent and stepparent responsibility to create that positive atmosphere. Show your children the positive things about God and your family.
Commit your life to God! Then commit your life to every member in your new family! Purpose in your heart to see all your family healed from the past, serving God, and moving into the new things that God has for your future.
Parents and stepparents, work together to bring healing and wholeness into your family.
- Make God the center of your heart and home through intimacy with Jesus Christ,
- Build a loving, life-long marriage; become one in mind and heart with your spouse. Your children need a healthy role model of what a successful marriage looks like, so they can duplicate it.
- Pray together as a family, and for each other,
- Involve yourself in your new children’s lives.
- Communicate with your biological AND new children --- let them know that they are a vital part of your family.
- Encourage your children to express themselves. Do not react to what they say, but help them work through any negative feelings that come up. (The law of emotion is, what you suppress will eventually come back up – usually in unhealthy ways.)
- Allow your biological AND new children to grieve. Don’t tell them to, “get over it.”
- Apologies bring healing. Apologize to each child, as the Holy Spirit leads you.
- Help children develop new, positive, achievable dreams. Learn your children’s dreams and desires, and help them attain their goals.
- Show respect to your biological AND new children – especially to those who are being disrespectful. Giving consistent respect will bring respect to you.
- Read some divorce recovery, grief recovery, and blended family material, and share what you learn with your children.
God is in you, and He is on your side! He makes us overcomers in every trial; He delivers us from them all! We only lose when we quit.
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2
Blending a Family Ministry
~ Changing the way you view your blended family ~