RLL 71: Quick Tips for a Better Blended Family

Real Life Leading 71: Quick Tips for a Better Blended Family

This week, I was reminded of how much I still have to learn. Providentially, that reminder coincided with the publishing of a podcast interview that is all about lessons and tips for blended families. Anna Seewald, founder of Authentic Parenting (https://authenticparenting.com/) , and I had an excellent conversation on the topic of blended families. Below is a summary of what we discussed as well as a link to our interview. I hope that both prove helpful to you and your family.

8 Quick Tips for a Better Blended Family


1. Seek to apply the golden rule: Treat other people the way you want them to treat you, even when it’s difficult. And sometimes, in order to do this, we must leave past perceptions in the past.

2. Put kids first, especially when it’s hard or inconvenient. At its heart, this is a large part of what parenting is all about, so be willing to put what’s good for the children ahead of your own desires.

3. Make decisions with the long term goals in mind. Keep your focus on helping them become the adult that God has created them to be.

4. Speak gently whenever there is a disagreement [full disclosure: I have failed at this many times with my daughters, and it has caused much damage. I strongly urge you to be aware of your tone, especially when speaking with children.]  When speaking with other adults, the best way to decompress a situation is to speak calmly, no matter what. It isn’t always easy, but speaking over someone is not going to get anyone the result they desire


5. Accept that you can never get things 100% your way in a blended family (or in any family, really). Once you accept that, it becomes much easier to do adapt and compromise as necessary.

6. As much as possible, be flexible and adaptable, especially regarding time. There is generally a written “rule” or legal document, but consider being flexible when it is helpful to the kids. [Again, full disclosure: this is something that I’m very thankful my ex-wife and I both strive to do, allowing each other to see the kids when it’s not “our week” with them.]

7. Be willing to apologize for your mistakes. Openly acknowledge when you are wrong. Not only is this the right thing to do, it also sets an example for your children to follow.

8. Make it a habit to speak well of the other adults involved in the relationship. It’s important not to bad mouth each other, and it may be even more important to purposefully point out the positives! Be sure to talk about how loved the children are by all of their parents.

RLL 70: Love is Often Spelled T-I-M-E

Real Life Leading 70: Love is Often Spelled T-I-M-E

This picture is from the first day of school: always a fun time to let the girls know we care!

This picture is from the first day of school: always a fun time to let the girls know we care!

This week I received an unexpected blessing: I was able to come home from school early on Wednesday, all of our evening activities that we had planned were cancelled, and we were able to spend a whole afternoon and evening as a family, even in the midst of a busy week. We spent the time running, playing games, and just generally enjoying each other’s company. That evening as we prayed with the girls at their bedtimes, it reminded me of just how grateful I should be for getting that type of opportunity and how important it is to create even more of them moving forward.

According to Ron Deal’s incredibly helpful book The Smart Step-Family, it takes years (the older the kids at the time of the blend, the more years it takes) for a blended family to fully come together. There’s no rushing the process, and I’m not claiming to have a secret to speed it up. However, what I want to encourage you to do today is to make extra time, and to make sure that you are as involved as you can be in your children’s (and stepchildren’s lives).

In our world, I get to see great examples of this every day: my wife (the girls’ stepmother) is wonderful about spending time with the girls. But even more important, she is involved with the girls: helping them braid/flat iron/curl/(whatever else teenage girls do to) their hair, answering questions about clothing, helping them with sports and gymnastics and homework, etc. The girls know that Mel loves them because of how she treats them and how willing she is to help them with whatever they need. We saw this again on Wednesday: after Mel and I went for a run, we came home and spent the next hour in the back yard playing volleyball and soccer with our girls before going and getting ice cream before dinner.

The girls also get this at their mother’s house, because their stepdad is also involved in their lives and interested in their activities. He has helped coach or been the head coach for multiple years and multiple sports for our younger daughter, and he spends much time taking care of their school’s athletic fields as well; and none of that even mentions the amount of time he and the girls’ mom have spent attending sports games, school events, and other extracurricular activities that the girls are involved in. I’m not sure if he spends as much time helping them with their hair, but then, I don’t really either, so that’s probably ok.

I’m grateful Carly’s teacher let me stop by her room right as school started on the first day!

I’m grateful Carly’s teacher let me stop by her room right as school started on the first day!

Again, the girls know that all four of their parents care about them because of our willingness and eagerness to be involved in their world and to spend time with them participating in activities they enjoy. Anytime you can create opportunities to cultivate time together, I strongly urge you to do so, and while it won’t necessarily speed up the blending process, it certainly will help develop relationships of love and trust between all of the family members.

Action step: this week, carve our special time to watch a movie, play a game, or go for a walk with your family and enjoy each other’s company. Ask the kids what they’d like to do, and find a way to make it happen.

RLL 69: Yard Work Makes the Family Work

Real Life Leading #69:

Yard Work Makes the Family Work

This weekend marked a large milestone for our younger daughter: I taught her how to cut the grass! We as a blended family believe that it’s important for our girls to learn to be self-sufficient, and as a result we work to teach them skills they will need when they live on their own: cooking, cleaning, yard work, study habits, responsibility, etc. And this weekend that meant it was time for our Lou to cut the grass. It was after she finished the yard that I saw the parallel with blended family life. In learning to cut the grass, the single most important thing to remember is that, if you work at it, it will get easier with time.

Between the grass Lou cut and our snowball bush, our yard is looking ready for spring!

Between the grass Lou cut and our snowball bush, our yard is looking ready for spring!

In our blended family world (as well as in the blended lives of many of our friends), we have seen this to be true, and so I wanted to share this bit of encouragement with you this morning. Praise be to God for how well things are going in our world! And, for those of you struggling in your blended family situation, I’d like to share just a couple of major points about how we got here.

First, understand that any blended situation is going to take time before it can become comfortable and routine. Our lives were not always this way, and without a doubt situations will arise in the future that will test our patience. However, I can state that where we are now is miles from where we have been in the past. It has taken us a few years to get the hang of things like good communication, proper respect for distance and boundaries, and how to balance our desires with that of the other household. And if I’m being entirely honest, we still get it wrong sometimes. But in general, our blended family world is on an upward trajectory, and much of that is the result of patience from all involved.

Soon it’ll be time to eat on the patio again, enjoying the view and the smell of the grass!

Soon it’ll be time to eat on the patio again, enjoying the view and the smell of the grass!

Second, in order to work well together, we all have to consciously choose to put in the work. It’s not always easy, nor is it always fun (much like cutting the grass!), but when you do the work the results are almost always positive.

Hold your tongue when you want to respond harshly or with sarcasm, pray for the other household when you want to criticize, and show respect even when you strongly disagree. These type of actions are good not just because they build better relationships but also because they are the right thing to do: that is, you don’t just do them because they are good for the family, you do them because by doing these things you are allowing God to change your heart as well.

I am thankful to say that I have seen God continue to work in my heart year after year, and He does the most work when I get my own ego out of the way and simply try do to the right thing even when it’s hard. So that’s my encouragement to you today: do the right thing, even when it’s hard. And then, especially when everyone is putting in the time and the work, you’ll begin to see a difference in your own heart and in the hearts of those around you.

Action Step: This week, choose to show patience and respect even when you’d rather not. Make this a habit and enjoy the results!