Stepfamily Success Profiles

NO LONGER JUST HOUSEMATES

Philip’s 20-year-old daughter, Elise, was living at home and had taken on many household duties. After Philip married Louise, could stepmother and stepdaughter build a good relationship?

Louise: We had a very hard time at first. I am quite a homebody and wanted to ensure that I was the housewife.

Elise: Louise reorganized the house and threw out a lot of our stuff. I tidied up once but put some things in the wrong place, since I didn’t know where they went anymore. This upset Louise, she and I said some angry words, and I couldn’t speak to her for a week.

Louise: At one point, I told Elise, “I don’t know where we go from here, but I can’t live in this atmosphere.” She came to me later that evening and apologized. I gave her a hug, and we both cried.

Elise: Louise left some pictures of mine hanging on the wall, and Dad did not remove the lights that I put in the living room. It may sound petty, but their leaving these things really helped me to feel that my home had not completely disappeared. I am also grateful for the way Louise looks after my little brother when he’s with us. It’s been two years now, and I am starting to think of her as a real member of the family.

Louise: I feel that rather than being just housemates, Elise and I are now also good friends.

 “UNITY IS MORE IMPORTANT”

Anton and Marelize each brought three children into their stepfamily when they married six years ago.

Anton: We do things like camping trips as a family, and we spend time with each child individually. It took us a few years to really settle in, but most of our family issues are sorted out now.

Marelize: We feel that it’s important to view the children as “ours,” not “yours and mine.” I remember once making a fuss when I felt that Anton unfairly disciplined one of my boys and gave his daughter the preferred seat in the car. I learned that family unity is more important than sitting in the front seat. We try to be fair even though we cannot treat everyone exactly the same.

I also avoid talking about exciting times from our previous family, since those who weren’t there will feel like outsiders. Instead, I express gratitude for the family we now have.

“COMMENDATION FIRST”

Francis married Cecelia four years ago. Their household includes her three adult children and his teenage son.

Francis: I try to be approachable and to avoid taking offense easily. We regularly share meals together and use this time for family discussion. I also encourage everyone to care for some household chores, since these benefit the entire family.

Cecelia: I spend time with each of our children and listen to their fears and frustrations. In our family meetings, we try to give commendation first and then encouragement for improvement. And when I make mistakes, I acknowledge these and make a sincere apology.

 RAISED BY TWO STEPPARENTS

Yuki, aged 20, has not seen his father since he was five years old. His mother later married Tomonori, but she died when Yuki was ten years old. Five years later, after his stepfather Tomonori married Mihoko, Yuki found himself living with two stepparents.

Yuki: When my stepfather decided to remarry, I thought, “I don’t need a stepmother. I’ve already had enough changes in my family.” I refused to accept the situation and treated her coldly.

Mihoko: Even though my husband did not pressure me to love his stepson as he did, I resolved to try to build a relationship with Yuki. We did our best to maintain his routine, including spiritual activities, recreation, and a meal each evening with conversation afterward. I also understood him much better after we talked about his losing his mother in death.

When I became pregnant, we were concerned about Yuki and wanted him to feel secure about his place in the family. We had Yuki feed and bathe the baby and change his diaper, and we commended Yuki in front of others for his help. Little Itsuki is quite attached to Yuki. Before he learned the words for “papa” or “mom,” he knew how to say niinii​—big brother.

Yuki: As a stepchild, it is natural to feel alone and left out. You can try to explain your situation to others, but they can’t seem to understand. I am happy to say, though, that fellow Christians have been a true support. Now the wariness I felt toward my stepmother is gone. She gives me good advice, and I can speak to her from my heart.

[Blurb on page 9]

Be patient! Stepfamilies can be happy and successful