I remember I never wanted to become a step mother! I was not certain I would be as blessed as my mother was after she became a widow. I was also afraid I would have step children who would ensure I was miserable. In addition, my strict Christian upbringing plus my fear of harassment by the previous wife insured me against marriage to a divorced man.
This was my attitude despite my life in what is now called a blended family. My parents were widower and widow when they met. Each had two children; after remarriage they had three more together. I was the beloved last born in the family.
Now that I am old, I can say with some confidence that step parenting can become a ministry of your faith especially if you are a Christian. Here you are called to love the children you meet in the new marriage as much as those you bring into the relationship or have after tying the knot with your new spouse.
I am aware becoming a step parent may automatically give you the title of the wicked step mother or the strict and cold step father. For both man and woman it is never easy to be both loving and firm with children you did not have naturally.
I am sure that blending their two families was not easy for my Christian parents, a widow and widower. They were blessed to have young ones who responded to love and stability in their life. These children were able to become one family with their new set of parents and siblings who were born after them.
I recently learnt that partners who intend to become step parents after marriage must go through specialist professional counselling so they don’t make mistakes that may be difficult to correct later. This is important even if they have been married previously. And whether both are or only one of them is bringing children into the new relationship. I would recommend prayer, Christian counsellors and books especially for partners who are Christians.
I recently learnt some lessons from a HelpGuide article, Blended families and Step-Parenting Tips by Jeanne Segal, PhD and Lawrence Robinson. Last updated: November 2019.
Here is a summary of some of the tips .
- The spouse who is not the natural parent of the chid(ren) must leave the job of discipline for the natural parent. This would provide a bonding period with the step children for the incoming parent.
- Sometimes genuine attempts to love and care for step children would be met with indifference or hostility. The step parent must not give up hope of eventually winning the affection of these children.
- Emphasis was placed on this area, “ When a parent has died, the remarriage of the surviving parent may TRIGGER UNFINISHED GRIEVING in the children. Give them space and time”.
- The couple must grow their marital relationship and not just concentrate on getting closer to the step children.
- The couple must plan family time with the children.
- The parents must avoid favouritism with any of the children.
Also reading Blending Families by Jimmy Evans and Frank Martin would be helpful for Christians and other spouses in this situation.
I would like to congratulate step parents including those I know who are working hard to grow worthwhile marriages. These are also providing healthy family lives again for countless children especially those who have lost a parent. I pray the Lord blesses their efforts with exceptional success. I would again recommend counselling, Christian books as well as the article I mentioned earlier to them.
The Bible gives the following essential advice , “ If you need wisdom, ask our generous God and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5 (New Living Translation).
POSTSCRIPT- I am not a professional counsellor and would therefore recommend the services of professional counsellors to those who are planning to marry and become step parents. The same advice goes to step parents who are already married and need help to resolve issues relating to their children.