by Margaret Broersma
Author of Daily Reflections for Stepparents
By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures (Proverbs 24:3-4).
So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (I Corinthians 12:25-26).
When Mike and Patty started to date, they were both excited about finding someone who knew how it felt to be deserted by a spouse. They thought they might possibly have found not only a spouse, but a stable, sensitive co-parent. Freely admitting the mistakes of the past, faithfully committed to God, and with the help of accountability groups for support and change, they thought they could make a "go" of it. But the kids weren’t so easily convinced.
Sometimes as they would sit on the front porch talking after the children were in bed, Patty’s nine-year-old daughter, Emily, would sit in the upstairs window overlooking the porch and scream. The idea that the one parent she had left might possibly be giving her affections to someone else terrified this child and also made her angry. How could Mom choose someone over her? If Mom loved Mike, then who would love Emily?
How could Emily possibly share her mother’s time and affection with a man, let alone with Mike’s children as well? Thankfully, Emily got over feeling threatened when Mike spent some special time with her and became her friend too. She was no longer afraid of being deserted. In fact, she actually became glad that she was getting a step-dad.
We had a similar situation. One of the children would pretend to be in pain, "fake" cry, and carry-on something awful when we walked around outside or just the two of us sat talking. First of all we simply had to say, "Stop! You may not carry on like that!" But we also had to reassure her that her dad would always love her, and in fact, I would love and care for her too.
The behavior stopped of it's own accord when the need for the behavior stopped. As the child gained in security and saw that she wasn’t losing a father but was gaining a stepmother, she was able to be more reasonable. She learned from our being together as a family that although she was not the center of the universe and would not be singled out for extra attention, EACH of our children would be treated as special at certain times. And so would she.
She would be expected to give as much to family relationships as the other children, and she would receive as much attention as the other kids. If we had given her more time and attention, we would have fed into her selfishness and attempts to manipulate. But treating her fairly, as another one of all special children in the family, she gained in security.
One of the ways I made each child feel special in the first year or so of our marriage was to have a "kid of honor day." On this day, the honored child would pick the supper menu (from choices offered by me), have a special place-setting at the table, maybe even have a small gift, and we would sing "For He/She’s a Jolly Good Fellow." This honor could be for the end of a ball season, doing great on a school project, learning to tie shoelaces, getting the coveted part in the play, the first baby-sitting job well done, etc.
Any little accomplishment at all can be an excuse to honor a kid. (Pay attention to not honoring the same one twice before honoring them each at least once!) After a time, this tradition died out. We have plenty of birthdays to celebrate, and on that day we all honor the individual. But when the children were younger and birthdays seemed very far apart for them, the "kid of honor" meals were very helpful in making each of our children feel loved, secure, and special.
Dear Father in heaven, thank You for wisdom in raising these children and blending our family. Thank You that each one is special, and may all of our children know that they are special both to You and to us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Taken from Daily Reflections for Stepparents. Used by permission. Margaret Broersma and her husband, Roger, blended a family that includes Margaret's two sons and Roger's three daughters. She is adjunt professor of English at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Purchase her book Daily Reflections for Stepparents.