It is said the luck of the Irish will be yours if you find a four-leaf clover.

When it comes to finding four-leaf clovers in building a stepfamily, we quit looking early on.  Finding the clover may be a botanical possibility, but discovery of a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow is a myth. Being intentional in your relationships with your stepfamily will bring you more blessings than any myth.

It takes time to create a stepfamily that is genuinely working together and has high prospects of success.  The average stepfamily takes almost seven years to bond and mature, and seven years is just the average. Some families come together at a quicker pace while others may never completely blend.  The most important thing to remember is that you’ve got to allow time for relationship building.

To help in the search of the elusive four-leaf clover; i.e. a functioning stepfamily, implement these four principles:  

First, commit to cultivating an “I’m not going anywhere” mentality. When stepfamily life causes you to feel like throwing in the towel, choose to be stable, steadfast and reliable to all members. Yes, all members, even the ones with whom you have the most difficulty.  Love says, “I’m not going anywhere; I won’t bail out on you!” You’re in this for the long haul… no back doors of escape.  The “D” word (divorce) is not even in your vocabulary.

Second, blessed are the flexible for they will not snap!  Remain flexible, supple, bendable, adjustable, and adaptable to the circumstances. Why? Because you are committed -- need we say more?  There are so many moving parts in a stepfamily: in-laws, ex-laws, schedules, personalities, finances and of course, the family pet. Sometimes we need to be intentional in our flexibility, especially if this trait doesn’t come easily for us. 

Flexibility and sensitivity to others will build trust. The thought process here is, “I can trust you because you are trying to make things work for me. I know you are looking after my best interest.” Anytime you can build a bridge of trust in stepfamily relationships -- do it! Which leads to the third item…

Third, trusting environments, once achieved, create safety for those inside its influence.  It can be hard work to nurture such an atmosphere for a stepfamily. You may think with all the coming and going, change, distance, grief (from the loss you may have experienced), uncertainty and often plain confusion, being able to trust one another seems unattainable. Instead of focusing on the obstacles, think about what an incredible opportunity we have to experience trust again especially if it was obliterated in your last family. 

Will trust happen overnight? Probably not.  But it is worth the effort and patience for the pot of trust (or gold).  Family members will thrive in a trust-filled environment and may impact the legacy of future generations of your family. If nothing else, trusting our Lord with our own lives/families is the best – and first -- step you can take. Trust will be tested, but because you are flexible, you will not snap, crack up or loose your sense of well-being.

Commitment, trust, and flexibility are three important leaves to preserving and growing into a healthy family. But we can’t forget the fourth, vital leaf: laughter!  Be flexible at the corners of you mouth – if you are going to crack, then crack a smile. Lighten up and enjoy the chaos of family life. We can all take life far too seriously. When our family has done this in the past, we say to one another, “We’re not laughing enough.”  Adding some fun, humor and a hearty belly laugh is not only good for your health but your perspective.  When you can get to the funny side of life, the defenses come down and relating to one another is far more authentic. Another question our family likes to ask: “Is this the hill we want to die on?” That keeps things in perspective and helps keep what’s important right in front of us.