How to help the child of divorce when families blend



When children of divorce are being raised in a two-parent home, most people call these two-parent homes stepfamilies or blended families.

Blending two completely different families takes time—and much effort on the part of the parents and children in the new family. And remember, there are two additional “other” parents outside the family trying to blend. Quite often, those of us in children’s ministry forget about these parents and the effect they can have (good or bad) on the effort to blend the new family.

While you might not have contact with them, remember that the children may still have ongoing contact with these other people, and they will still be an influence on the children. Sometimes, it might not be a good influence, and you may be left to deal with the consequences of explaining Christian principles as you read stories from the Bible and present your carefully prepared lessons.

It might help your understanding and patience with the children if you think of the term “blending” versus step or blended family. Basically, you are still ministering to the child of divorce, except this child is now thrown into another family dynamic or possibly two completely different families.

A true picture of a blending family

One time, I was interviewing five children from a blending family. It was dizzying to listen to them. I’d ask a question, and there would be five different answers with each child trying to out-talk the others. Afterwards, the videographer said, “There was mass confusion in that interview! Did you understand anything they said?” (The names have of the children have been changed.)

  • Joey and Isabella visit their mom on the first and third weekends and every other Wednesday afternoon.
  • Anna and Colin visit their dad on the second and fourth weekend and every other Thursday on the weeks opposite when Joey and Isabella go midweek.
  • Isabella worries that Anna is going to “touch” her stuff.
  • Colin worries that Joey is going to ride his bike even though he has told Joey not to.
  • Joey gets very angry when he comes back, and Colin has sat on his bed. Joey said he can always tell when Colin has been on his bed.
  • Anna has told the younger Isabella she cannot wear her makeup, but Isabella doesn’t listen and sneaks into the makeup.
  • They shouted angry tirade about the foods they like but the other kids don’t like and how they never get to eat what they like.
  • They all loved their natural parents, but a couple of kids weren’t really sure they loved their stepparent.
  • All four kids worry about their half brother, Christopher, while they are gone.
  • Joey and Isabella also had to deal with another stepparent because their mom had remarried.
  • The kids got upset just telling us how some of them get to go someplace, and the others don’t, or while they are visiting the other parent, the kids left behind get special privileges, and they don’t.

Can you understand how this family is still “blending”? It will take years for every child to acclimate successfully into this family. Personally, I have no clue how these two adults were managing this menagerie.

What you can do

  • Help the parents understand while they are “in love,” the children are not.
  • Explain that it will take years to successfully bring the two families together. Some experts say it takes up to seven years for families to blend.
  • Tell the parents that sometimes, the kids only seem to be excited about the new marriage because:
  • They may look at the new stepparent as someone who will give them the things they want.
  • The children didn’t get the new clothes or the new bicycle they expected and are upset because they were sure the new parent had an endless stream of cash.
  • The “honeymoon” period with the kids is over, and the kids don’t like it.
  • Help the parents realize that “touching my things” is a big issue to kids. I can’t count the number of times kids have shared this with me.
  • Tell the parents to not make their children “share” everything. Kids need their own things, and let’s face it: as adults, we don’t share our things.
  • Encourage parents to let each child be his own person.
  • Tell the parents to work on creating rituals with each child.
  • Help the parents create a safe home, and encourage them to tell the children that they, the parents, are the safe keepers of this home.

Realize that some family populations swell during the summer months as kids arrive to visit their parents. Not every child from a single-parent home has another parent to visit. If you have a blending family where a couple of children are always in the home while the other parent’s children come from out of town for the summer, this too will create some problems in the family dynamics.

Realize that some of these families are under tremendous stress. This is particularly true of newly married couples, especially if both spouses bring children into the mix.

Take a picture of the children, and hold on to them for next summer. Review the pictures at the beginning of each summer, so you can remember these children. They need to know they mattered enough for you to remember them.

Summer months create a perfect time to reach out to these children in your classes. Realize that as they visit, they want to be a part of your church family. Accept them readily, and work to acclimate them to your church family and culture. Share with them about the love of God. Pass this article on to the parents to help them understand some of the family dynamics they are facing.


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on July 15, 2014.

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2 thoughts on “How to help the child of divorce when families blend

  1. Very insightful Mrs. Jacobs. As someone with a step child, this is extremely helpful, albeit there is only the one child and the situation is nothing close to what you described above. Thank you for the food for thought.

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