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September 22, 2018

Tips for successful blended families

Years back when I was much younger, a teenager really, I watched a movie about a blended family. It was a really interesting story about a widower who fell in love with a widow and about their struggles to gel their family. Between them they had 10 or so children who could not stand each other. It was a comedy that ended well as most romantic stories do, but it also touched on a very real issue. The relationship between step children, step parents and half siblings.

Growing up my idea of a step parent was mostly informed by cheesy plays on children’s theatre on television. Like mother-in-laws, the step mother was often cast as the evil person who was the ban of the children’s existence. Sadly that has been the view for most people. I never even knew any blended family back then but I was already convinced that all step moms were gold diggers who wanted to get rid of the children to have the attention of the man; and step dads were monsters who beat the step children mercilessly yet favoured their own biological children. Then I grew up and my narrow view began to be challenged.

The truth is sadly a couple of the step mothers I have interacted with have actually lived to the reputation of the evil step mother, but luckily for me I have also met some really nice step parents; men and women who loved their step children as much as their own. Blended families that you would never tell were blended unless they shared their story.

A few years back I had the privilege of being best maid at a friend’s wedding. She and I had been friends from college and she had a darling little girl. The new man in her life loved the little girl but I must admit I was sceptical, very sceptical. I have watched them over the years and I must admit the gentleman has surpassed my expectations. They have three children between them now and you would never know that the little girl is not his biological child. They have an amazing relationship that is a blessing to watch. Thanks to this lovely man, the little girl will grow up confident because her daddy loves her. I have watched this scene played over and over in friends and colleagues’ lives, men and women who step up to fill a gap and do it so well there are no gaps. I like to refer to them as angels in disguise; Jesus with skin on.

The figure of a parent is of paramount importance in a child’s life and I doubt there is any loss as painful to a child as that of a parent whether it is through death, divorce or abandonment. When another adult steps in to fill the gap, even though they never truly take the place of the lost parent; the loss becomes that much easier to bear and the road through life so much safer to navigate. It takes patience, love and commitment to earn the child’s trust and to be given the privilege of speaking into their lives at this capacity.

Many people enter into blended families with rose tinted glasses, unaware of or unwilling to put in the hard work. It doesn’t take long before they realise that it takes more than blind faith to keep it all together. It takes lots of patience, prayer, hard work and self denial because any person can have a child but it takes a special someone to be a parent. To love, nurture, watch over and support another life as they navigate their journey here on earth and as any parent can bear witness, it is a job that has no end.

So to all those brave souls who have chosen to be mother and father to a blended family, kudos. Thank you for choosing to make a child’s life that much brighter and better. Thank you for choosing to love and stay and parent. Thank you for standing up against the stereotype to prove that there is still goodness in this world. Because of you, this world is so much better.

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