Navigating a new family

Written by Rebecca Yauger
Published on August 19, 2022

It takes courage to walk into a ready-made family and love someone else’s children…and someone else’s husband. You see, I married a widower with two children. His wife was killed in a car accident at the age of thirty-seven, leaving a fifteen-year-old, a ten-year-old, and a bewildered husband who was learning to manage his grief with that of his children’s, doing all he could to keep the family afloat.

The day I married my husband was one of the happiest days of my life. That’s not an uncommon statement for a bride. In my case, I married my high school sweetheart 20 years after high school. Yes, we’re one of those stories. But the happily ever after didn’t come right away because I had no idea what I was walking into. I didn’t know how to be a parent and I certainly wasn’t qualified to help a grieving family. But through lots of prayer and a lot of support from my husband, we found a way to form a new family.

However, blending a family together doesn’t simply happen when the wedding ceremony is complete. It takes time to unite the new family into something whole and fresh, while still respecting the traditions of the previous family. It’s not an easy transition. But it can be done, one step at a time, once you understand the process. Here are the phases we went through in order to become our own family.

Phase One – The Honeymoon

When I entered the picture, dating the widowed father of two, it was a time for me to get to know the kids. When we were together, we were lighthearted and had fun. When I moved in with the family, there was still an element of newness and of an emerging friendship between the kids and me. The traditional parent/child relationship had not yet developed.

Phase Two – Parenting Stage

The honeymoon was fairly short-lived as it soon became evident to the kids that I was going to be a parent to them and not just a friend. I had a different parenting style than my husband. This meant that my husband and I had to discuss how we were to discipline and manage the children so we were on the same page. This proved to be a bumpy time of transition.

Phase Three – Buried Emotions

As the parenting stage unfolded and the kids realized there was a new parent in the house, one of the kids in particular lashed out at my husband for remarrying, believing that he did not love his late wife anymore because he married me. This child really carried a weight between devotion to their mother yet enjoying spending time with me. They had a hard time reconciling the two. This is where communication is essential! Parents need to be aware as best they can that the children may be struggling while putting on a good front.

Phase Four – Acceptance

It’s not easy to reach this stage. But the key to arriving here is consistency. My husband, as the biological parent, had to include me in everything. He had to reiterate to the kids that I had a say in the family and what decisions I made while he wasn’t home were also from him. We made it a point to provide a united front. We had to let the kids know that both of us were here for them. This was part of our new family dynamic, and it was the stepping stone to create our own new family.

However, there were times where I needed to step back and allow one-on-one time between my husband and the kids. That didn’t diminish my role. I was acknowledging the importance of their relationship.

Bumps in the Road

Coming into a family, especially when there has been a death of one of the parents, is tricky. I not only had to find my way as a new parent and discover my place within the family, I had to understand and console when the waves of grief hit either my husband or the kids.

Grief is a very bumpy road for anyone. It’s difficult to provide comfort, especially knowing that the reason you’re there is because someone else is gone. That is where I needed to have the most faith. We may not always understand why God works the way he does, but I had to believe I was joining this family to serve God’s purposes, even through the depths of grief.

Consistency and Time

As a step-parent, my job was to treat the children with love, to treat them like they were my own. Their world had been upended, first with the passing of their mother, then with their father’s remarriage to me. So I needed to show them compassion and love, as well as provide them with a consistent routine and the assuredness that I would always be there.

My husband and I walked into our marriage with the idea of forming a new family. We knew it would be a balance. We had to find a way to respect their old traditions while making room for new ones with me. That meant that it wasn’t just the kids who needed to be open to new traditions. My husband had to be as well. In this area, it takes time.

Pray, Pray, Pray

The best advice I can give: Pray. Pray and trust God to lead you. Follow what it says in James 1:5 (NLT), “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

Being a parent of any kind, whether to your own flesh and blood, by adoption, or by marriage brings the greatest sorrows and the greatest joys. The words of Ephesians 4:32 (NLT) are a great guide, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Through my own parenting journey, I learned patience, kindness, discipline, and courage. Our family unified through a lot of conversations, tears, laughter, and prayer. And I wouldn’t trade a single moment of it.


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Rebecca Yauger

Rebecca Yauger is a writer and blogger, who writes about real friendship and relationships, and all the ties that bond us. She is a three-time cancer survivor, and church life group leader. Rebecca grew up in a military family, and now after living all over the world, she makes her home near Dallas. She is married to her high school sweetheart, and is a proud mother and grandmother. Visit her at www.RebeccaYauger.com or on social media: @RebeccaYauger.

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