Life in a Blender
Ron L. Deal
Imagine you are fourteen and are reading the following from my booklet for children, teens, and young adults in stepfamilies called Life in a Blender.
So, was Jesus a stepchild?
It’s an interesting thought and one worth consideration. Think about it: Jesus was raised by a stepdad. Certainly the circumstances surrounding His birth were, well, quite extraordinary. Being conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin certainly places His “stepfamily” situation in a category of its own. Yet, when you stop to reflect on it, the God of the universe allowed His one and only Son to be raised by someone who wasn’t His “biological” father.
My point: you are not alone.
Kids and teens really need to be reminded of this, especially during the summer when visitation schedules have them and their stepsiblings shuttled back and forth between homes. They are being tossed and turned by the blenders swirl—and it’s hard, sometimes, to make sense of what they are feeling or know how to cope.
The Big Five
In the booklet I tell the story of Rachel, a student in her late teens who lost her dad to a heart attack. After a few years Rachel’s mother and brother “sent her to counseling” because she was so angry and difficult to get along with. Rachel came to her first appointment not having a clue why she was in such a bad mood all the time. I started asking about what I call “the big five” emotions for children (loss, guilt, sadness, confusion, and fear) and in about 5 minutes it was clear to both me and her why she was acting that way. Her mother had begun dating again and Rachel was overwhelmed with grief about losing her father (“it feels like burying him all over again” she said) and fear about how life would change if her mom remarried.
Kids in single parent families and stepfamilies need to know that these emotions are common and that they are not alone—that’s one reason I wrote the booklet. And they also need for their parent to acknowledge the emotions and validate their concerns—which is why I wrote the parent discussion guide to accompany the booklet. When parents are able to affirm their children’s emotions it connects their hearts and comforts a child’s fears. When kids are affirmed that their emotions are normal, they don’t feel excess guilt or shame. Both of these dynamics result is more cooperative children and less conflict within the home.
Kids also need practical answers to common stepfamily dilemmas and they need gentle encouragement to contribute something positive and Christ-like in their home, even if they don’t like everything about it. That last one is tough sometimes, but I find that teens who claim Christ as their Lord, for example, are open to being challenged. If someone affirms their side of their story, but then invites them to have grace for the people in their stepfamily or to act with kindness toward new family members, they find a way to do so. Life in a Blender describes a number of common dilemmas kids and teens face and then encourage them to:
- Look for ways to respect their stepparent.
- Find ways to be considerate to those living in your house.
- Strive to forgive others who themselves may be struggling to accept the family.
- Find a measure of love to give to everyone. It might be loving respectfully as a “friend,” closely like an older “sister,” deeply like a “son,” or at a distance like a “stepchild-in-law.” Whatever the case, love somehow.
Living in a blender can be confusing, frustrating, and it can make one dizzy! But choosing to love always makes positive difference.
Ron L. Deal is Founder & President of Smart Stepfamilies™ and Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®. He is a bestselling author, highly sought-after speaker, and therapist specializing in marriage enrichment and blended family education. Learn more here.