FamilyLife Blended®

Ron L. Deal

Helping Children Grieve, Part 3

December 13, 2017

You know if you are grieving, you know grieving is hard. So how do you help a child grieve?


When we experience a loss we need relational, psychological, and spiritual anchors to hold us steady. One anchor for children is the consistent presence of people they trust to help them deal with the loss. They also need spiritual perspective on things like how a good God could allow bad things to happen even though he loves us. As a parent in a blended family or a stepparent make sure the kids have these anchors because grieving the past has everything to do with accepting you in the present.

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Did you know that when it comes to family or community grieving sometimes children are forgotten?   After my 12-year-old son died my wife and I struggled to help our other two sons grieve the loss of their brother. We learned that siblings are what bereavement counselors call the forgotten mourners. Turns out this is often true. When divorced parents battle over money or visitation schedules how it affects their child is often ignored. Don’t pretend like the loss isn’t in a child’s life anymore. It is. Acknowledge it and speak to the child about it. Let them know you haven’t forgotten.
December 12, 2017
If you are a parent, you might just also be a grief counselor.   It’s funny. Grief is an emotion that will not be denied but in our culture we try hard to deny it. We expect sad people to get over it in just a few weeks. We think faith and a quick sermon from Romans 8:28 will make sadness go away. But it doesn’t. In single parent families and blended families kids need you to be authentic with your sadness, to give permission to their sadness, and to listen to their stories. Grief is a journey not a destination and it is best that children not travel alone
December 11, 2017
Okay, so you are a mom in a blended family. Have you ever heard this one before? You love him more than you love us.   You know lots of moms or dads have heard that accusation from their kids. It usually comes when the kids are feeling insecure. So what do you do?  What is the priority in your life? Well, here is what you say. “My spouse is the most important adult in my life. You kids are the most important kids in my life. I love you both very much. God has given me more than enough love for all of you. I will always be here for you.” One antidote to a child’s insecurity is your reassurance and a big hug.
December 8, 2017
I once asked a seven-year-old what it felt like when her mom married her stepfather. She said, “Well, it’s kind of like when a friend pushes you down on the playground and runs off and leaves you.” Ouch.   The problem here is that mom threw all of her time and energy into the new relationship and it came at the neglect of her child. If you are a single parent I suggest a good balance in dating. Spend time with your kids. Spend time with the person you are dating.  If you are already married in a blended family, keep a fresh connection with each child. Ironically, this will make it easier for your kids to embrace their stepparent and stepsiblings because they are not competing with them for you.
December 7, 2017
Healthy co-parenting is hard. So, is it worth all the hard work?   Co-parenting is increasingly common these days. When we get it right, there are a lot of benefits. It reduces loyalty conflicts in children. It decreases resentment between homes, making it emotionally safer for kids to move back and forth. It improves the psychological well-being of children. It fosters cooperative parenting, which means kids can’t play one home against the other. And it reduces stress in a couple’s relationship, strengthening their marriage. I’d say it’s well worth it.
December 6, 2017
How do you prevent divorce in the next generation?   You do that by preventing divorce in their parents. Children of divorce are less confident about the idea of marriage, often choose cohabitation over marriage, and are themselves 89% more likely to divorce when they get married. What do you do for kids who have already experienced divorce? Give them a healthy marriage model. You prevent divorce in the next generation by preventing redivorce in this generation. Healthy stepcouples lead by example which is reparative and that breaks the cycle.
December 5, 2017
Diligence secures a reward.   “Whoever tends a fig tree,” Proverbs 27 says, “will eat its fruit.” Apparently, faithful diligence brings reward. Now, that’s a speech we want to tell our kids before they go to college. And, one we need to give ourselves when we have a prodigal child. Or are looking for a job or struggling with a bad habit. In faithfulness, keep tending to the tree—the relationship or situation—season after season. It may not bring quick reward or bear the exact fruit you want, but reward it likely will bring.
December 4, 2017
“But Ron, what do you do about all the things that you can’t control?” Well, here is one more tip for managing strep-stress at the holidays.  Do what you can and accept what you can’t change.   Honestly, this tip may be the most difficult for co-parents. After all, you’ve contacted the other home, tried to be reasonable and cordial, and they still won’t meet you in the middle. It can be extremely frustrating sometimes. So what do you do? Bend when you can bend but say no when you have to and stick to your guns. And, in all things repay evil with good. As for all the other little irritating things you can’t control? For the well-being of your kids, you may just have to grin and bear it.
December 1, 2017
So, what do you call a stepfamily?   There’s a lot of confusion about what term to use for the stepfamily these days. Ah, see there, I used one. “But, Ron, we call our family a blended family because we’re trying to blend everyone together.” Yeah, that works. But, then, for some a blended family is a bi-racial family. Well, others call themselves a remarried family, or a combined family. There’s a lot of terms, but no matter which you choose, just remember to act like a family.
November 30, 2017
Criticism is hard to carry.   Imagine if I walked up to you and said, “I can’t believe your mom. Someone should call the authorities on her. Clearly, she doesn’t love you.” My guess is you’d be pretty mad at me. But what if it wasn’t me talking about your mom? It was your dad. Or it was your grandma talking about your dad. Or your mom talking about your stepmom. No matter how old you are, you’d feel it, wouldn't you? I talk to kids who tell me that’s what their parents say about each other. On their behalf, “Knock it off.” 
November 29, 2017
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About FamilyLife Blended®

FamilyLife Blended® provides  biblically-based resources that help prevent re-divorce, strengthen stepfamilies, and help break the generational cycle of divorce.

About Ron L. Deal

Ron L. Deal is the Director of blended family ministries at FamilyLife®, and is the author/coauthor of the books The Smart StepfamilyThe Smart Stepdad, The Smart Stepmom, Dating and the Single Parent, and The Remarriage Checkup. Ron voices the FamilyLife Blended short feature and is one of the most widely read authors on stepfamily living in the country. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist who frequently appears in the national media, including FamilyLife Today® and Focus on the Family, and he conducts marriage and family seminars around the countryRon and his wife, Nan, have been married since 1986 and have three boys.

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