According to a 2011 study by the Pew Research Center, over 40% of adults have some type of step- relationship. This means that they are a step-parent, step-child, or a step or half sibling. Chances are, you or someone that you know is in a step-family. And you may or may not be aware of this, but your actions and your words could be impacting the step-family in your life more than you know.
Building a step-family (or blended family) comes with so many unforeseen challenges. I’ve heard many families say that they felt “blindsided by” or “sucker punched by” or “unprepared for” the emotional roller coaster that they experienced when they brought two households together. And the last thing these families need is to have their extended families and friends doing or saying things that make matters worse.
All families, especially step-families, need our support. As Rahaman Kilpatrick states in his article,Our Marriages Need a “Village” to Help Them Succeed:
But I don’t think a lot people realize that a marriage is sometimes another entity from the two people that are in the marriage. The marriage is like a child. And the same way you’ve heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child, likewise sometimes it takes a village to keep a marriage together. But in order to do that, the married couple have to have that “village.”
Check out 10 ways you can help the step-family in your life.
Provide them with resources. 1 of 10
If you know a blended family or a person with kids that is about to get married, then send them a few books that will help them prepare for blended family life. One book that I've recently read and really like is The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family by Ron Deal.
Photo Credit: Ronnie Tyler
Encourage Them. 2 of 10
There is so much power in our words. You never know how an encouraging word could be just what a person needs to keep on going. If you know a person in a step-family, please remind them that there are tremendous blessings in the new family that they are forming.
Photo Credit: stylesr1
Support the Marriage 3 of 10
Babysit 4 of 10
Yes...babysit. Many couples in these ready made families need to have time to focus on their relationship. One great way to support a marriage is to help the couple get some alone time.
Photo Credit: anissat
Refrain from Negative Talk 5 of 10
Don't talk bad about the parent that is no longer in the picture, especially around the kids. Kids don't want to hear bad things about their parents and they don't need to be in the middle of adult drama. When I was little, my parents broke up for a few years. And to this day, I can remember my paternal grandmother and aunts saying negative things about my mother. I felt sad and powerless because as a kid I did not know how to speak up. I don't remember what they said about my mom, but still remember how I felt.
Photo credit: lusi
Expect Growing Pains. 6 of 10
Understand that the step-family may have some growing pains as they try to form a new family unit. And they are not going to get things right all of the time. Mistakes will be made and tears will be shed. But the first sign of trouble does not mean failure... it means that there is an opportunity for growth.
Photo Credit: Adam Borkowski
Respect Their Decisions. 7 of 10
This new step-family may operate differently from what you expect. Let them figure out what works for their family without interference from you. Marriage is not "one size fits all."
Photo Credit: sooperkuh
Encourage Respect. 8 of 10
Everyone in the step-family may not love each other right away... but they can respect each other from the beginning. Never encourage a child to disrespect a step-parent. If you have concerns about things that are happening in a step-family, take it up with the adults.
Give Them Some Time. 9 of 10
It could take years for a step-family to "blend." Realize this, and give them some time to grow. Don't write them off and don't encourage them to throw in the towel at the first sign of trouble.
Photo Credit: remind
Listen. 10 of 10
We are in the middle of shooting our next documentary film which happens to be on blended families. Many of the families we interviewed were suffering in silence when they first came together. They were not sharing the struggles that they were experiencing. One of the best things that you can do for them is to listen, and to let them know that you support their family and that you are praying for their success.
If you are in a step-family, know that you are not alone in what you are experiencing. There are so many resources out there to help your family succeed. Also know that it is all worth it! There are tremendous blessings in any family that is built on a foundation of love and respect.
Photo Credit: Rob Marmion