Successful Stepparenting - Blending Can Bring Mending (Part 2)
In remarriage, families blend best when the youngsters have been prepared for the new stepparent. The cardinal rule when forming a stepfamily is to talk out expectations before marriage. Each partner does not need to hold identical opinions on every subject, but it is crucial that each understands how the other person feels and reacts, especially when it comes to disciplinary matters. Such preparation involves understanding the limitations of step parenting. The stepparent has no biological ties to the child and therefore must earn the young person's respect. Nothing comes to a stepparent via position alone. The new stepparent will probably have to prove himself or herself over and over again.
Many people think that step parenting is as natural as breathing. Life is full of rude awakenings. Many stepparents think that they are mature, that they love kids and that they are easy to get along with. "It will be like having one of my own," they chant. But step parenting is very, very different. No biological ties govern the relationship. The child does not have to love you as your own child naturally would. All the love you planned to heap on your stepchild won't make any difference. The realization of this fact hits with full force within six months after marriage.
The longer a stepchild knows an incoming stepparent prior to marriage, the better the chances for working out expectations and problems. Leaving a child out of preparations when a new person is about to enter his life can have long-lasting repercussions. Wise adults generally involve the stepchild in the wedding service. One family actually mentioned the names of each stepchild when exchanging vows during the wedding service. It made the children feel part of the new family unit. This sharply contrasts with another family where the father vehemently stated: "I married her, not her kids!" He refused to recognize that when children are involved, it is always a package deal.
Prior to the wedding service, allow the stepchild to see the new parent’s real personality under all circumstances. And the incoming parent should make every attempt to encourage the child to reveal what he expects from the relationship.
Becoming the stepparent to the child of a divorced person may be very different from living with a child who yearns for someone to fill the void left by a deceased parent. The longer the child has lived in a single-parent home after the death of the parent, the more rigid his memories tend to become and the more difficult the adjustment may be. The child will probably expect the new parent to take up where the old one left off, and it just isn't possible. Every child in the newly-formed family should feel a part of the family as soon as possible. The child needs to know that he has a special place. If the stepchild only visits on weekends or holidays, it is still necessary to arrange a place that belongs only to him - a bed, a drawer, certain possessions. When two sets of children must merge, it becomes even more important that the child have a space all his own. One mother who moved here two children into the home of her new husband with his two children commented, "All the children have been forced to do some adjusting. The children must share bedrooms. My oldest daughter wants a bedroom of her own, and my husband's children are whining, "Whose house is this anyway?"
The stepparent family needs to find common ground - an activity, a sharing of jobs - that can draw them together. It might be weekend camping, a sport enjoyed by all, a love of bird watching, or perhaps leading church activities together. But it needs to be something that will help the family form bonds of friendship with one another.
No one can replace a biological parent, and no stepparent should try. However, the best thing that can happen to the child of a family broken by death or divorce is to gain the right stepparent. This child can be loved by his biological parent - yes. But to be loved by someone who has chosen to love you is something quite different. A happy "blended family" is possible if the adults are mature, patient and persistent, and if God's love is consistently demonstrated during the blending process and beyond. Blending can bring mending.