Raising children is a challenge.
If you are reading this, you likely are raising children in a blended family. Our family has children at various life stages. We have a 17-month-old who is committed to climbing everything she can and a son who is about to turn three, who is very clear about what he does or does not want. My wife’s eldest is 20 and raising her first child, while her second is 13 years old and painfully enduring middle school drama.
When we got married in 2011 the oldest was 14 and in the 8th grade and I had not yet had any children.
Spoiler alert, raising a teenager is understandably known as a painstaking experience.
For a parent who has never had a child before, like myself, the teenage years can be overwhelming. The child may often be quick to remind you that you are not their parent and your spouse may even run to their defense during times of conflict.
One minute you and your spouse are on the same page, the next minute you are in the hot seat. This is a sensitive and precarious time. At least, it was in my household.
Have you ever tried to hang out with a teen?
If you are their bio parent, they do their best to express that they would rather not. If you are their step-parent, you can just forget about it. The sting of rejection may hit you faster than you saw it coming.
Hannah and I both understand this blended family life pretty well. I was raised by both my biological parents, but during a time when fathers were too hard to be sensitive and too busy to be available. Hannah’s parents were divorced by the time she was six months. She was not raised at all by her father. Her mother remarried right before Hannah’s 12th birthday. She went from an only child of a single mom to a big sister and step-child nearly overnight. She found it difficult to adjust. Her relationship with her step-dad was tempestuous. Due to her experience, she is understandably sensitive to situations that remind her of her childhood.
We consider our experiences when raising our family and working through the teen years, but here is a truth to ponder, while teenage years are quite difficult, they are also quite similar to how we behave as children of God.
Much like teenagers, we think we know everything. We often dislike correction, and we even deny wrongs at times. Yet He pursues us and loves us anyway. He knows that the remedy to breaking chains of turmoil in our lives and with our families is Love.
God says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes love as, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…”.
Read the last verse slowly and thoughtfully. Love is described as an action – not feelings. It is difficult to feel loving at times, especially when the one you are trying to love says they hate you or wish you never came along. Which is why I think God commands us to be love in ‘action.’ Love always perseveres, meaning you will show love in a way that stretches you beyond what you feel capable of. Boy, raising a teenager fits that definition, right? Being the step-parent is not the only difficulty, it can be heart-wrenching being the spouse. Often I am called to give extra love and support to my wife because she feels so much affliction watching her eldest daughter navigate life as a young adult in a fallen world.
We decided we were not going to try and just endure raising the oldest until they left the house. We want to instill a sense of belonging. Just because we don’t all have the same last name, does not mean we are not a family unit. We want our home to be a warm and safe place. A loving environment where all of our children feel free to be themselves. “Above all, be loving. This ties everything together perfectly.” Colossians 3:14.
So how do we go about living out this great love in our blended families living in these fast times? First of all, be intentional. Set dates and plan out activities. Discuss what values you want to pass down to your children. How do you respond when your child lets you down or does something wrong? Consider Ephesians 4:2 and 1 John 4:18-19. Are you gentle? Patient? Do your children fear you? How you act or react in these situations often are how our children respond themselves as we are the example they are likely to follow.
Recognize opportunities to praise your children for their strengths and good works. As we are called to do in 1Thessalonians 5:11. Look for common interests or similarities to find ways to connect with each other. Our 13-year-old daughter London and I are watching a TV series together. Each night I get off work, we have fun discussing the episodes. Not only am I spending time individually with her, but I am helping guide her thinking about situations that arise in the show. “Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14. While our date nights are sacred, I recognize how important this time together is as well. I will watch the toddlers so they get their time together too. We have learned we need to be intentional about love in our family.
We will leave you with this:
“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other…” 1 Thessalonians 3:12.
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