The topic of blended families is one that is close to my heart. Not only is it something that I have helped many families navigate as a therapist, I grew up in one. I think blended families are one of the ways that Jesus brings beauty from ashes. But, they are not without their challenges.
It can be hard to bring together two families – it often feels like bringing together two different worlds. And in a way, it kind of is! Every family has their own values, norms and traditions. It is rare they are exactly like someone else’s. So, when we blend these two sets of differing values, norms and traditions together, there are usually some kinks to work out, no matter how much everyone loves each other and wants it to work.
Over the years, there are three things that I have seen be most helpful in navigating these complex waters: 1) communication – about ideas, feelings and expectations – including those of the children. When we make space for this, we say “you matter, you have a voice”; 2) honor and respect the “other” parent (whether living or dead), because whether we like that “other” person or not, they are part of the child. If we reject the parent, the child feels we are rejecting a part of them; and 3) surrender (lay down) expectations, so that you can create ones that fit the current family dynamic.
Also, extend grace. To yourself, your spouse, the children, and the “other parent” if they are living. We will all make mistakes along this journey. Grace lets us make those mistakes in a safe way, so that we can learn and grow from them.
And above all, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 New King James Version (NKJV)
Elizabeth Pierce is a wife, mother of two, and clinical social worker by profession. Her life’s purpose is to speak truth and make a difference – in this world and for the kingdom of God. Elizabeth has worked at the same counselling agency since 1996, starting as a therapist, until she became the Executive Director in 2010.