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Smart Stepfamilies

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Tracie, from Ohio (submitted Oct '09)


Name: Traci Ervin

Home: Dover, Ohio

WOW! I wish my husband and I could have read your book 6 years ago!! Here we are now finding out we made all the mistakes you could possibly make when entering into a remarriage.

My first husband and father of my two sons was killed in an auto accident when they were 3 and 5 yrs old. I was a single mom for 2 years before remarrying a Christian man. We both went into this marriage with rose colored glasses thinking we would beautifully blend and he would be accepted as "Dad" and we would create this "new" family. Six years later, entering into adolesent, teenage years and we're still treading the waters trying to keep our heads up so we can just survive! We were given some really bad advice six years ago by our pastor that told us my husband should take over the discipline since he will now be the "man of the house." Now we find out years later that all we did was create resentment and hostility towards their stepdad which is being escalated due to the hormonal teenage years. When things are going well between the kids and their step dad my oldest will call him dad, hug him, play around with him etc., but when he gets in trouble and needs to be disciplined he gets very angry, especially towards my husband. They butt heads ALOT!!!!

With all that said... where do we go from here? How do we begin to fix what has taken us 6 years to screw up? Thank you for your book, we just started reading it and I hope it will help us out. God has been so good this last week leading me to your ministry, FamilyLife Today, etc. and my husband and I are both willing to change and work at this and hopefully relying on God a lot more than we had been!

Traci-- Praise God you found us and have begun "getting smart," as I like to say! You asked where you go from here: Getting perspective on how you inadvertantly got to this point is step one. Keep reading and growing and you'll figure out steps two, three, and so on. Change starts with honesty and humility (which sometimes expresses itself with an apology or two) and forgiveness. Once that heart-shift is in place, healing can begin. Oh yeah, have lots of grace for one another. Mistakes--despite good intentions--have been made. Be sure to restate one another's good intentions (e.g., I know you want to shape my son's character; thank you for fighting for that, but please be more gentle with him) and offer grace for what has not gone right. Keep asking God to direct your steps and don't give up. Finally, if you remain "stuck" find a local therapist who can help. 

You're not alone. RLD



Comments ( 2 )
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#2: by Lynne on 11.14.2009 @ 08:50am CST

I have been married to my second husband for 7 years and I had had three children from my first marriage. They were 7, 9, 10 when we were married. A year later my ex signed off his rights of being a father to the children and my husband adopted them. From the first day they called him Dad or daddy. ZHe worked hard to erase the things that their father had taught them about women and respect. They are now 17, 16, 14 as well as 6 other kids added to the mix and my stepson that we just gained custody of. My husband cultivated a friendship with the kids, I helped establish the concept of respecting authority over our lives. Obediance to God, our poarents and respecting my husband were stressed by me. He delveloped a freindship with the kids, as well as stress that they will respect me thier mother. He has handled most if not all of the major discipline issues even as far as spankings when neccessary. He wrestles with them regularly and even though he is smaller then the 16 yr old he wins and this establishes his strength. They respect him. We believe in training the children and a little more so because of the situation.

We shared devotions from proverbs every day, we probably discuss the Bible and God's will for our lives more then some families because we know that this is important. They understand better what adoption means in Scripture because of their adoption by my second husband. We used exercise like push-ups, flutter kicks and jumping jacks in most situations to train them that when they are angry it is best to exercise then to lash out. Only in the areas of stealing, lying, disrespect to one or the other parent did we spank the kids. Laziness was always rewarded with exercise. Today they praise and thank their father for cultivating friendship, taking the role ordained by God, not letting them get away with being manipulative and rude, teaching about agape love, leading them to the Lord, training them to be men of character.

We have problems on occassion, but a lot of that is normal teen behavior. We understand that they are trying to find out their place in the world. We read Dr. Dobson's book "The Courage to Parent" and we talked to the teens and told them that we understand their desire to find their path in their life, cut the apron strings, they will not be allowed to be disrespectful, rude, or harm others in the home. We listen when we need to (my husband is better at that then myself).

The important thing is that we really worked hard and are still working hard to teach humility, respect, and we stress servant leadership. My husband constantly teaches from the book of Matthew. I have spent many days praying over each child and we believe that Christ will repair any broken heart. We haven't read much in this area except the one book that has been our guidebook through most of this. That guide book has been the Bible.

God has been our pilot and i praise the Lord that we have been blessed with children whose minds and hearts have been receptive to God's teachings in their lives. They have great friends in their youth group, and have also made friends with older men in the church that also lead them in advice and wisdom.

Now I have to be honest that the situation with my stepson is extremely different. He is angry, bitter, confused, depressed(because his mother told him theat depression runs in the family and she is clinically depressed with severe depression and borderline personality disorder). I have nine children I have given birth to from 17 yrs to 10 months. My husband works second shift and we homeschool. I am often left to a lot of the discipline, teaching, and training. Luckily my husband backs me up. We wrote all the rules expected to be followed complete with the discipline (pus-ups, flutterkicks, jumping jacks, running in place. sit-ups etc) this has helped a lot because everything is spelled out and not vague. Anyway, that's what we've done so far.
#1: by Steve Sposato on 11.02.2009 @ 09:03pm CST

I think you did a great job for letting Tracie know what to do from this point on.
The only thing I might have added is either helping her find a good Stepfamily ministry in her area or suggest that she look to find one.
It sounds as if from what she reports that she and her husband could use the help and guidance of other stepfamiliy couples.
I am glad you mentioned that they give each other grace for their past mistakes.
Steve Sposato

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