A blended family is the result of remarriage, adoption or fostering. While each context is certainly different, there are behaviors I’d deem essential for a new family’s well being. Parents should be proactive in creating a positive climate in the blended home. Let me share some foundational behaviors with you.
Share a new identity. With a new family comes a new identity. Consider it from the perspective of becoming a Christ follower. The old is gone and the new has come. There was an old identity, but now my identity is in Christ. In this new relationship, my identity is changed. The same goes for a new family. Maybe it’s as simple as a new last name, but more significantly this new identity says, “I am yours and you are mine.” With a new identity comes acceptance and a future.
Give the assurance of safety. Relationships have history. Sometimes it’s good and at other times not so much. When a child enters into a new family relationship, it’s important to create for them a safe haven. As the parent, you are the protector. Know their fears and become their overcomer. Let them know you will protect them and not allow anything or anyone to harm them. God does that for us. Psalm 4:8 reads, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” God is the causative factor in the safe dwelling. As we look to God, a child looks to a parent to provide safety.
Create as sense of stability. In the remarriage, stability comes in observing a loving and committed relationship between the husband and wife. In adoption and fostering, stability is created through consistency, communication and boundaries. Keep your word; do what you say you’re going to do. Reassure them of your commitment to the family and more specifically to them.
Give a place to belong. Everyone needs a place to belong, a place to hang their hat. Belonging is developed through communicating expectation, role and responsibility. Give them a reason to belong; let them know you chose them. Assure them of a place and space within this new family. I love that Psalm 68:6a reads, “God settles the solitary in a home…” God places every lonely person in family; He gives everyone a place to belong. Parents have a responsibility to create a home of belonging.
Show love. Demonstrate love toward the child. Embrace, hold, affirm and encourage. Communicate in their love language (Gary Chapman) of either touch, words, quality time, gifts or service. Children learn love and how to love from their parents. When you know that you’re loved, you can overcome just about anything.
I’d like to tell you blended families are easy, but they’re not simply because it is family. All families are messy from time to time. As a blended family by adoption, I’m grateful God made my family just the way He did. These five foundational behaviors I’ve shared with you we’ve learned by experience. And, while it doesn’t make a perfect family, it gives you a great foundation on which to build lives together and that’s what it is about.