A blended family brings a hyper awareness of the basic needs that go unmet. They may become sensitive to the things biological families take for granted. Siblings complain about sharing a bathroom with a messy sister or brother. Stepchildren see a stranger at their bathroom sink.
Here are 3 broader examples of Sensitive Areas of Comparison:
A house is not home to everyone. The house may be shelter 25% of the time for some and 50% of the time for others. The parents who live there full-time may not refer to the four walls as home.
It may be their spouse’s house that they moved into. It takes intentionality to uncover what “home” means to each person. It takes work to retrofit a house into a home for all.
The word family is a weak tie that does not bind individuals together. Stepchildren may not ever refer to children of their parent’s spouse as their stepsiblings. They may never consider those kids to be family. They may not refer to the spouse of their parent as stepmom or stepdad but rather, “my mom’s husband” or “my dad’s wife”.
Often, blended families do not gradually build walls of division. Those walls are already erected before marriage vows are spoken. These walls are high and thick. It takes decades to scale and consistently hard work to drill through. Most don’t even try.
- Option C
In a biological family, the children have the benefit of mom and dad as the starting block and final decision makers in their life. In blended family situations, the new parent/stepparent dynamic is rarely the first option they turn to seek help.
If the child wants or needs something they may often look to themselves first. There is a strong tendency for children in stepfamilies to be fiercely self-reliant and independent. Their trust in people is low. Their expectation of disappointment is high.
This applies to the parents as well. The new wife may have survived being a single parent for years by not relying on a man to meet her needs. The new husband may be unfamiliar with a healthy wife, so he responds by dismissing gestures of comfort and connection.
Looking within themselves to meet their needs is often Option A. Looking back at the former family dynamic, biological parent that doesn’t live in the home or the familiar support system that got them through the single parent years, is Option B.
Looking across the room at the current spouse or stepparent is a painful Option C. Selecting this option means grieving the other options that failed. The desire for comparison is conquered by gratitude. They would do well to speak out loud what they are grateful for in their new partner.
Parents must be careful to speak words of life over their stepchildren and within the children’s hearing. Identify specific actions in a timely manner which brought joy to your heart. And repeat. And repeat again.
Resource to consider: “Stepparenting with Grace: A Devotional for Blended Families” by Gayla Grace