Wednesday, November 29, 2006

If Santa Never Showed Up

By Ron L. Deal
President, Successful Stepfamilies

Imagine the disappointment of your child if Santa never showed up at his or her house. I mean, if Santa didn't bring them—or anyone else in your home—anything for Christmas how would your child feel? Left out? Dismissed? Insignificant? Unimportant?

Now imagine a stepparent that intentionally withdrawals from a child over an extended period of time. Day after day the stepparent’s rejection is perceived as a running commentary on the child: insignificant, unimportant, and dismissed.

There is a renewed effort by many Christians throughout the world to encourage couples to adopt a child. Recently a Focus on the Family radio broadcast featuring Stephen Curtis Chapman highlighted the efforts of his organization Shaohannah’s Hope to partner with groups like Focus on the Family and FamilyLife to encourage Christian adoption both within the US and abroad. Our own Natalie Nichols Gillespie (managing editor of my monthly E-Newsletter) has herself adopted a child and has just completed a new book on the subject entitled Successful Adoption: A Guide for Christian Families. The point I’m trying to make is this: all over the world people are encouraging others to adopt children. How ironic that many stepparents have an incredible opportunity to influence the life of a child—to “emotionally adopt” them, if you will—but choose not to.

No, I’m not suggesting that all stepparents should formally adopt their stepchildren. I’m only suggesting that they intentionally utilize the opportunities God has given them to influence their stepchildren. For years most of the feedback I got from frustrated biological parents was that their spouses were too rough on their kids. They came in like a bull in a china closet and caused a lot of conflict in the home. Now, I’m getting more and more feedback from biological parents who wish their spouse (the stepparent) would emotionally engage their children instead of choosing a “complete hands-off” approach. What a waste.

This Christmas season, can you imagine Joseph taking a “he’s your kid, not mine” approach with Mary? Instead of becoming a loving influence to Jesus, can you envision Joseph going fishing or spending all his time with his other biological children (who, of course, came later)? No, I believe that God chose Mary not only because of her character, but Joseph’s as well. The Holy Spirit knew that he would be a vital contributor to Jesus’ childhood and even though we have no account of it, I’m confident he was. Mary’s gift to the world was giving birth to the Savior; Joseph’s gift was loving him as his own.

Please don’t be confused, this is not to call into question what I teach about stepparents being the “baby-sitter” initially with their stepchildren. The purpose of that “hands-off” approach to authority and affection is to give stepparents time to do just what I’m suggesting here: become a loving, trustworthy, influential role model in the lives of their stepchildren.

Don’t miss out on your God-given calling—and if you already have, repent and get in the game! There’s so much you can do to bless a child.

For further reading, check out this online article, also by Ron L. Deal.


Sherri Cox said...

No disrespect, but it seems you might be disregarding the "hands off" step-parents' approach as something other than a learned behavior brought on by the abuse that person takes from both a stepchild and the respective biological "parent" who refuses to take the lead in disciplining said child. Try to keep in mind that most step-parents haven't taken lightly the decision to become such and have likely had the luxury to develop a loving and mutually respectful relationship with the child BEFORE the step-parent agreed to marry into the situation. Coping with the realities which ensue from the inevitability of being taken for granted as a step-parent deserves much more than a "what a waste" from someone who certainly isn't struggling with the same issues at the time of his/her obtuse commentary. How about some respect for those of us who would give anything to be treated like a part of the family and not just the step-slave? Abandonment works both ways, and when a spouse doesn't encourage togetherness with a new step-parent, but instead expects that person to shoulder all of the unpleasant responsibilities, it may VERY WELL be time to put one's foot down and step away from the situation until some appreciation for those responsibilities sets in.

In our example, my husband has chosen to utilize me almost exclusively for the cooking and cleanup of his 3 small children, each of whom I enjoy very much, and with whom I would enjoy spending more quality time. However, that becomes an impossibility resulting from his refusal to implement rules like picking up toys, no food in the bedrooms/living room and his constantly rendering the "[Step-mom] says..." excuse for anything negative he has to tell them in the way of anything from correction to the food I've prepared which he doesn't think they should have to eat. I end up being nothing more than a housekeeping robot with whom they never have a chance - or desire for that matter - to spend any quality time, for the fact that their opinion of me is constantly brushed with negativity, when we have any time left to spend together at all.

Anonymous said...

What does Santa have to do with Christianity?

Anonymous said...

Sherri Cox...ditch the loser, it does not sound like there is anything worth preserving in that relationship, and seems like you are being horrendously used