8 Ways to Build a Healthy Stepfamily
- Friday, July 18, 2014
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Ron Deal’s new book The Smart Stepfamily: 7 Steps to a Healthy Family (Bethany House Publishers, 2014).
The process of building a stepfamily after remarriage is more challenging than building a biological family. You’ll likely feel mixed emotions: excitement about starting married life with your new spouse, but disillusionment from the stressful demands it involves.
Many stepfamilies don’t survive; they give up on the process when it becomes too difficult for them. But it is possible to build a healthy stepfamily. The key is relying on God to help you during the process. Here’s how:
Ask God to heal pain from your past. Whether your past marriage ended through death or divorce, you and your children have gone through significant pain that will affect your current attitudes and actions – damaging your stepfamily – if you don’t pursue healing for it. Be encouraged that God can redeem even the worst suffering that you and your family have gone through. Place your trust in God to guide you through the healing process, which may include: praying about each of your specific concerns, talking with some caring people you trust, keeping a journal to record healing insights that God gives you, pursuing professional counseling, etc. Choose to believe that you can overcome your past pain and enjoy a healthy life with your stepfamily moving forward.
Develop key qualities that will help you create a healthy stepfamily life together. Those qualities are: spiritual integrity and Christlikeness (living honest and faithful lives in which you all are gradually growing to become more like Jesus Christ), listening (paying careful attention to what each family member has to say), understanding (getting to know each other’s perspectives), perseverance (relying on God to help you all get through difficulties well), commitment (deciding to love, honor, and cherish each other for a lifetime), patience (not rushing your stepfamily’s integration; allowing enough time – usually five to seven years – to develop authentically close relationships), flexibility (opening yourselves up to creative solutions to problems), and humor (not taking yourselves or your lives too seriously so you can gain an accurate perspective on your circumstances).
Discover a redemptive God together. Rely on God to give you and your family the love, forgiveness, strength, and direction you’ll need for your journey together. Take an honest look at how strong you and your spouse’s relationships with Jesus are. Once you identify specific ways in which you can grow closer to Jesus (such as praying more or repenting of a certain sin), devote yourselves to doing so. Seek a deeper knowledge of God’s Word and will for your life together. Make your relationship with Jesus your top priority, and revolve your marriage and family around it.
Adjust your expectations. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you recognize unrealistic expectations in your marriage and parenting relationships and adjust them to reality. Expect that it will be a slow process for stepfamily members to get used to new living conditions, feel a sense of belonging, and build genuinely close relationships with each other. Be patient, instead of trying to rush the process or force or pressure family members to act like a close family before they’re truly ready. Relax and trust God to lead you day by day.
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