Peace in a step-family

Over 50% of families in the United States are “re-coupled”, with one or both partners having been married before. Over 50% of children are being raised with one biological parent and that parent’s current partner (married or not). The 21st definition of family is different. Within a Christian context, is it possible to find peace in a step-family?

When I married Al I became part of a step-family. I had it easy; there were no children still living at home. His two adult sons were thrilled that we were getting married, and welcomed me into the family. My own maturity had developed enough that I was not looking for the “perfect” circumstances. 

Yet there were still challenges. “Blended and blessed” is for grownups; it takes a great deal of character growth to build a step-family that is functional. Here are some things I had to learn quickly, and can recommend you embrace if your family is some variety of blended.

  1. Acknowledge Different Histories.

My boys (I only call them “step-sons” when there’s a need for “legal” correctness) and their families will always have memories that I don’t share. My husband loved another woman before me. Holiday traditions, inside jokes, and different expectations are real. I had to learn to listen and enjoy without nursing the feeling that I was the outsider.

If you can’t embrace the whole package, becoming part of a step-family is not for you. That doesn’t mean you must like every detail of the package, but trying to ignore, whitewash, criticize, or change their family history will only sabotage your own peace and future, not to mention the blending.

  1. Give It Time.

Ron Deal says that building a step-family takes seven years to settle; think crockpot, not blender. Even with my intentionally positive attitude and welcoming stepchildren it took some years for things to feel like family. For example it took years for me to not worry about what the house looked like, or what I looked like, when one of the boys would come over.

If even the best blended family takes perhaps seven years to build peacefully, it can take even longer if there is conflict. Be patient – with your spouse, with any children involved, and with your own heart.

  1. Find Your Identity Elsewhere.

I will never be my boys’ mother. I will always be Number 3 to my step-daughters-in-law (after their own mothers and their husbands’ mothers.) If I’m not OK with that, then I have no right marrying someone with a prior family. While I am treated with true love and respect, this reality affects family gatherings, holidays, and more. Thankfully I’ve learned to truly find my worth and identity in Jesus regardless of anyone else’s behavior. And as a result, I’m free to truly receive the love they have to offer me. I can enjoy what is without pining for what is not.

When you find your identity in Christ you don’t have to search for it from those who are completely unable to tell you who you are.   Tweet that.

  1. Be Kind.

If I had tried to change my step-children, offering my uninvited opinion on how they should run their families, or criticizing them, there would be no relationship. Over time I have become such a part of their lives that even since my husband’s death they continue to welcome and include me. With love and kindness I have earned the “right” to stay connected. And I’ve become someone they look to for wisdom and help – when they ask for it.

Kindness goes a long way. Be the person your step-family wants to be around. That doesn’t mean compromising values in “sinful” areas, but show you truly care in both words and actions. Always.

  1. Keep Praying.

It has become a part of my daily time with God to mention my step-sons, their wives, and their children by name in prayer. They are my family. My own heart needs it. And God can do amazing things as a result of prayer. I’m convinced that my loving family circumstances would not be as they are without regular ongoing prayer.

Whether or not your blended family is peaceful right now, keep on praying. Whether you agree with how your step-children are behaving, keep praying. Whether you are welcomed as part of the family right now or not, keep praying. That’s the only way to truly build a peaceful step-family.

Your Turn: If you are part of a blended family, what has helped bring a measure of peace? Are there any of these five elements you could do better? Leave a comment below. 

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  • Finding peace in a step-family does not happen by accident. Time, respect, and love will go a long way. Here’s how I experienced growing peace in my blended family.   Tweet that. 

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