Blended families are a beautiful thing. They represent new beginnings, new love, and a new and bigger family. But blending a family with stepparents and stepchildren can also be incredibly challenging.
You don’t want to overstep appropriate boundaries that involve loving and disciplining any children involved. Often it can feel like a seemingly unwinnable situation.
These hurdles aren’t impossible to jump, but they do take a good bit of wisdom and discernment.
I recently spoke with one of the most renowned experts on this topic, Ron Deal. Ron Deal is a licensed marriage and family therapist, the president of Smart Stepfamilies™ and director of FamilyLife Blended®, a division of FamilyLife®. He is the author of numerous best-selling books including Building Love Together in Blended Families: The 5 Love Languages® and Becoming Stepfamily Smart, which he wrote with Dr. Gary Chapman.
I highly encourage listening to this very important two-part episode on my podcast here. This is a topic we don’t talk about enough, but as second marriages and blended families become more and more common, it is inevitable that parents and stepparents will have questions that can’t be answered in a traditional way.
Below are just a few suggestions Ron gives for how new families can thrive in the midst of such a tough transition.
Know your stepchild’s love language.
Dr. Gary Chapman first developed the idea of love languages in his book The 5 Love Languages over 25 years ago. He theorized that most people express and receive love in five different ways: physical touch, giving and receiving gifts, acts of service, quality time, and words of affirmation. We are all inclined to one of these love languages more than the others.
Knowing your stepchild’s love language can be incredibly helpful in forming a bond with him or her, but Ron warns not to try and do this too quickly. For example, if you know your stepson’s love language is physical touch, don’t attack him with bear hugs right away. Start with a fist pump or high five, then as your relationship grows, move on to hugs.
Remember, stepchildren are grieving. They are either grieving their parents’ divorce or the loss of a parent. They are in stress due to a big transition in their lives. You have to be patient and earn their trust little by little. Knowing how they give and receive love can be incredibly helpful in this process.