Remarriage with children

Mentoring Tips

Make one-to-one mentoring easier by learning what to do and what not to do.  Click to learn more.

Tip#1 – Find your PLACE

  • Pray: simple yet powerful act
  • Listen: people want to feel heard
  • Ask: good questions foster productive dialogue
  • Consider: think slowly and biblically
  • Encourage: uplift rather than beat down
Tip#2 – Avoid the common mistakes

  • Fixing: this is a person, not a project
  • Preaching: walk alongside, don’t talk at or down to them
  • Carrying: show concern but don’t carry too heavy a burden
  • Blaming: no condemnation in Christ Jesus
  • Rescuing: you are not their savior!
  • John 16:13 (The Spirit of truth will guide you into all truth)
  • Psalm 25:9 (He guides the humble and teaches them his ways)
  • Matthew 11:28-31 (yoked with Christ, burdens light)
  • Hebrews 13:5 (free from the love of money, content)
  • Joshua 24:15 (as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord)
  • James 5:16 (prayer of the righteous accomplishes much)
  • James 1:5 (if you lack wisdom, ask of God who gives generously)
    • What was your image of a family while you were growing up?
    • What was your image of a family in your previous marriage?
    • What is your image of an ideal stepfamily now?
    • How are these images the same?
    • How are they different?
    • What do you believe is your role in the marriage relationship? What do you believe is your spouse’s role?
    • What do you believe is your role in parenting your own children and your spouse’s children?
    • If you don’t mind me asking, how did your previous marriage end? Do you feel there was adequate time for you and for your children to heal before entering into your current relationship?
    • How healthy is your relationship with your former spouse? How healthy is your spouse’s relationship with their former spouse?
    • How well are you and your former spouse able to communicate regarding concerns for your children? Are there any changes you’d like to see in that area?
    • How secure are the children in their relationship with their non-custodial parent? Are there any changes you’d like to see there?
    • I believe the most important relationship in your life is the one you have with Jesus. Can you tell me what that means to you?
Deeper Questions
    • What steps have you taken to offer forgiveness to your former spouse for the past? How have you sought his/her forgiveness for the past?
    • How have you and your current spouse found common ground regarding faith? Are you able to worship together as a family?
    • How do the two of you work to combine family traditions (especially holiday events) from both families?
    • Are either you or your spouse favoring your biological children over your stepchildren? How do you think your spouse would answer that question?
    • Experience shows that it takes longer for children to give up the dream of their parents reuniting than most parents realize, and a stepparent is often seen as the one preventing that reunion.  Have you considered that your children may still be grieving the loss of their biological parents being together?
    • What kind of premarital counseling did you receive prior to beginning your current marriage? Would you consider seeking some now, perhaps from your pastor?
    • Who are you able to count on to support your family in the midst of stepfamily conflict?  Who holds you accountable?  Who is actively praying for you?
    • What is one step you can take in the right direction and how can I help you do that?
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  • - Ron Deal, The Smart Stepfamily, p. 58

    “People in stepfamilies are not ‘second-rate Christians,’ simply because there is no such thing as a ‘first-rate Christian.’ We’re all sinners and all less than perfect. All our families are less than ideal. And we all need a Savior.”

  • - Ginger Kolbaba, Surprised by Remarriage, p. 108

    “The Stepfamily Association of America notes that most blended families will take between four and seven years to fully adjust to the new family.”

  • - Ron Deal, The Smart Stepfamily, p. 87

    “I believe two key barriers to marital oneness in stepfamilies contribute to the higher divorce rate: parent-child allegiance and the ghost of marriage past.”

  • - Ron Deal, The Smart Stepfamily, p. 21

    “When stepfamily life gets tough, remaining dedicated to your commitment is a day-to-day decision … Commitment requires that you strive for a better life together, even when you don’t feel like putting forth your best effort or have convinced yourself the marriage should have never happened in the first place.”

  • - Ron Deal, The Smart Stepfamily, p. 101

    “One of the great ironies of divorce is that you may have hated your ex-spouse at the time of the divorce, but now you have to find a way to cooperate with him or her for the sake of the children.”

  • - Ron Deal, The Smart Stepfamily, p. 123

    “The bottom line—barring legal abuse, the more spiritually upright parent does not have the right to control the other parent, his or her lifestyle, or access to the children.”

  • - Ron Deal, The Smart Stepfamily, p. 159-160

    “Effective parent-stepparent teams begin with healthy marriages. Take time to nurture your relationship, date on a regular basis, learn to communicate and resolve conflict, and enjoy a healthy sexual relationship. Make your marriage a priority.”

  • - Ron Deal, The Smart Stepfamily, p. 234

    “Visiting children should be expected to follow house rules and participate in chores like everyone else. They will need extra reminders of the rules and a little ‘grace space’ as they make adjustments, but in the end, structure is good for everyone.”

  • - Ron Deal, The Smart Stepfamily, p. 188

    “Weekly and biweekly family meetings are the perfect time to process emotions and negotiate preferences, rule changes, discipline consequences, and roles in the home.”

  • - Ginger Kolbaba, Surprised by Remarriage, p. 112

    “Children will always try to push the boundaries of a second marriage … Once they see who is really in charge, they will begin to use one set of parents against the other to achieve their own goals. Make sure you and your spouse stay united in front of them. If you have a disagreement, handle it in private when the children are not around.”

  • - Jim Talley, Reconcilable Differences, p. 23

    “Even though you may never get beyond a normal friendship level with your former spouse, you need the emotional stability that positive emotions give you. You need the support of your former spouse in dealing with your children who learn quickly that they can play one against the other when Mom and Dad don’t agree.”

  • - Jim Talley, Reconcilable Differences, p. 169

    “Be sure that you set the ground rules for authority in the home before the remarriage. Determine that you will support each other, even when your spouse has made what you consider to be an unwise decision in relationship to the children (unless it brings them into physical or spiritual danger). You may well want to discuss the decision when the children are in bed and decide on a change. Then it will be Mom’s and Dad’s decision.”

  • - Ron Deal, The Smart Stepfamily, p. 146

    “Early in remarriage, the most successful stepparent-stepchild relationships are those where the stepparent focuses first on the development of a warm, friendly interaction style with the stepchild. Once a foundation of mutual respect and affection is established, stepparents who then attempt to assume a disciplinarian role are less likely to meet with resentment from the stepchild.”

  • - Ginger Kolbaba, Surprised by Remarriage, p. 112-113

    “Often there resides in the biological parent a deep sense of guilt over what has happened to the children. While that’s understandable, it can often damage the new marriage … Parents will tend to overlook boundary issues because of guilt. Do not allow this to happen. Talk to your spouse honestly but candidly.”

  • - Ginger Kolbaba, Surprised by Remarriage, p. 108

    “Your children and stepchildren are watching everything you and your spouse do. They’re watching to see how you solve conflicts, they’re watching to see if you’re going to stay together. That means it’s critical that we put our marriage first … The reality is that if you put your marriage first, if you put everything into that marriage to make it succeed, you’re going to provide those children with a good, balanced, stable home.”

  • - Ginger Kolbaba, Surprised by Remarriage, p. 109

    “If stepchildren make comparisons between you and the natural parent or share unkind remarks with you, don’t take the bait to cast an insult. Keep your feelings to yourself, because it will inevitably get back to your stepchildren. Or it may force your spouse to feel he has to take sides.”

  • - Ron Deal, The Smart Step‐Family, p. 184, 187

    “Money will always be a major issue for remarried couples because trust, commitment, and the guarantee of permanence are the underlying issues. … The initial stepfamily money management system needs to be flexible, not carved in stone. … It’s an ongoing process that requires compromise and renegotiation.”

Next Steps
    • Encourage your mentee to work through any leftover baggage from their previous marriage. Unsettled issues or bitterness toward a former spouse will eventually poison all the relationships within the new marriage and family.
    • Encourage the mentee toward realistic expectations by avoiding the idea that stepfamilies should happen the same as nuclear families.
    • Encourage your mentee not to take over the parent role too quickly. Until the stepchild is ready to accept your authority it is best to position yourself behind the biological parent and play a supportive role rather than directive one.
    • Encourage stepparents to focus first on the development of a warm and friendly relationship with the stepchild rather than immediately stepping in as a disciplinarian.
    • Encourage participation in a HomeBuilders parenting Bible study with other Christian stepparents.
    • Encourage regular family meetings where every family member can be heard and where rules can be explained, understood, and adjusted when necessary.
    • Encourage them to consider attending a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaway
    • Encourage them to improve problem-solving skills that identify and “own” feelings rather than blaming or shaming. This develops a win-win atmosphere in the home.
    • Affirm the fact that stressful situations will abound within the complex structure of a stepfamily. A spiritually growing stepfamily is one that anticipates mistakes as a normal part of life. Stressful situations are seen as opportunities to grow.
    • Encourage your mentee to realize that balancing the needs of the children and the needs of the marriage is a constant priority. If done properly, this provides the family with stability and maintains proper generational boundaries. The longer the single-parent role was held, the more difficult the new couple bond will be to establish in remarriage.
    • Encourage your mentee to get involved in a local, Bible-believing church for spiritual growth and support.
    • Encourage your mentee to read articles and books to help them understand the uniqueness of stepfamily dynamics
    • Encourage the mentee to be aware of Smart Stepfamilies ministry