I so sorry the linkup is late. My mom fell a couple of weeks ago and broke her hip. I’m staying with her for a while and just got her home from rehab yesterday. Please keep her in your prayers, not just for her healing, but for her to come to know the Lord.
Blended Families Part 15: Helping Children Adjust
Over the last two weeks in “Blended Families Part 13: Differences Between Households” and “Blended Families Part 14: Overcoming Evil,” we have been looking at ways to deal with the different rules and expectations between your household and that of your ex in a God-honoring way. We, also, looked at how to evaluate whether or not to address any particular situation and how to respond when you ex isn’t willing to work on issues. Last week we talked about ways to live in peace and solve problems. Today and next week, we’ll discuss how to help your children and step-children adjust to blended family life and some of the issues that may need to be addressed.
The Challenge for All Families
When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus replied:
37 “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt. 22.37-39 NLT).
This can be challenging in all families as people live with one another day after day, seeing each other in the best and worst of circumstances. It’s especially challenging as we seek to blend two families into one.
Yet, no where is it more important that we, especially parents, live out these commands. We won’t do it perfectly, but we can do it humbly and imperfectly, by relying on God’s grace. Doing so is important to our children’s view of Christianity.
Loving Though They Didn’t Choose
While their parents chose a partner, children are called to love people with whom they didn’t choose to live. In the process, their hearts are exposed as they’re forced to share, submit to parental authority, to give, and to love. And while all families face change from time to time, children in a blended families often face sudden and drastic change.
Some of the changes might be:
- Birth order
- Position of priority with the biological parent
- The need to share a room
- A change of school
- A change of neighbors
- Loss of contact with extended family
And we could add many more.
Two Major Pitfalls
Parents in blended families can easily fall into one or both of two major pitfalls.
The first is to get focused merely on outward behavior without addressing the heart. Parents may come up with a rule for everything. The focus becomes all about complying with those house rules. Of course, some rules are OK, but focusing on compliance without dealing with heart issues creates little pharisees, at best.
Children learn to live in that economy. They learn how to get what they want by keeping the rules and, often, learn to manipulate by showing the right amount of penitence over bad behavior. Then when they’re out from under their parents’ authority, they begin to live out of the thoughts and motives that were in their hearts all along. They go away to collage or leave home and quit doing what’s right.
So instead of merely focusing on the outward behavior, we must allow their behavior to help us see and understand what’s going on in their hearts.
For example, a child who complains he never had to make his bed before you married may need to learn about the value of work and the cost of laziness. Or it may be a sinful self focus that needs to be addressed.
Prayerfully consider what your child’s behavior and responses are showing you about what’s going on in their hearts.
The second pitfall is allowing your child to become a victim. Anyone who’s been divorced will tell you that divorce can be very hard on children and watching them struggle can be hard on parents. Out of guilt, parents may try to protect them from anything else unpleasant.
Certainly, it’s good to protect them from certain things. They don’t need to know the details of their father’s or mother’s affair. They shouldn’t become their parents’ go-betweens or confidants.
But neither should we try to protect them from every difficulty. We shouldn’t rescue them every time their step-parent corrects or disciplines them, show them favoritism over their step-siblings, or try to save them from every difficulty at the other parent’s home.
1 Corinthians 10.13 is true in our children’s lives just as it is in ours.
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure (NLT).
James 4.2-4 says:
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
And Romans 8.28-29:
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Trials are opportunities for our children to mature and grow. If we swoop in and rescue them, we send the message that trials are bad instead of something we can rejoice in as James told us.
Jeff and Amy Baker in their Bible study on step-families say, “Hard is hard. Hard is not bad.”
“Hard” can be a good thing when we respond to it biblically. So our focus should be on helping our children respond to trials in a way that honors God.
What if your child complains that his step-siblings monopolize the TV by playing video games while he’s missing his favorite show? Ask yourself, what character qualities and what aspects of the fruit of the Spirit might God want to develop in his life? Kindness? Patience? Not taking into account a wrong suffered (Gal. 5.22-23; 1 Cor. 13.4-7)? Learning to prefer others as more important than himself (Phil. 2.3-4)?
What if your child complains that the other parent is preoccupied with a new boyfriend or girlfriend during their time together? How do you respond? With anger and a phone call to your ex? Or do you see it as an opportunity to teach your child to respond lovingly and communicate in a way that is respectful and honest.
The same principles that apply to you, apply to your children. When faced with unfair treatment help your son or daughter follow Paul’s instructions in Romans 12.17-21. You can review last week’s post. And help them understand that we can count is all joy when we face tests or trials, if we understand that God is growing us and helping us become more like Christ.
In the next post or two, we’ll talk about how to help our children handle fear, anger, and loyalty conflicts. Also, four simple rules for communicating well.
*Some information in this series was developed from a Bible study by Jeff & Amy Baker.
Some of the subjects I’ll cover in future blogs:
Blended families in the Bible
Damage control—healing the mistakes
Dealing with in-laws and out-laws
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