What’s your idea of a successful summer? Does it include a beach vacation? Time fishing or boating on the lake? Whether you like roller coasters, water parks, long walks or good books, the summer always seems to go way too fast—especially if you share time with your kids with another parent. But it’s possible to have a successful blended family summer.
Trust me, I get it. Sharing kids and splitting summers can make it difficult to coordinate quality family time. It’s hard enough to have a successful blended family during the school year with assignments, sports, and sleep schedules. But when you take away the structure of school and add summer camps, sleepovers, and ample free time—you have a recipe for chaos.
When my husband and I first got married and blended our families, we had big ideas. With six kids between us, we had high hopes for game nights, vacations, and an overflowing house—week on, week off of course. That would leave us with plenty of alone time and date nights in between.
Introduce former spouses, child custody battles, teenage angst and job loss (goodbye beach vacation plans), and our dreams were quickly dashed. We learned that our plans were subject to change—even subject to cancellation, sometimes with little to no notice.
Blending families is hard. I’m certain we were told this, but somehow until you live through it, it just doesn’t seem real. Maybe you’re facing similar challenges. You try to make plans, but somehow they always seem to fall through. One of your children is facing a crisis, but you can’t seem to connect. You’ve tried your best to settle on a sensible schedule with the other parent, but your efforts fall flat every time.
With all of this discouragement, it’s tempting to throw up your hands and give up. Believe me, I know firsthand how this feels. So, to start with, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.
But let’s take a look at the question again. How do we have a successful blended family summer?
Obviously, the answer is complicated, but we can start with ourselves. One of the traps we fall into when we want to define success is comparison. The comparison trap is always there, waiting to trip you up. We can avoid this trap by trying not to compare. We can’t compare our family to other families, even other blended families, because everyone’s situation is different.
Maybe you know a family who seems always to get it right. They’ve worked through the kinks and seem to be able to get along with the other parent. They share time beautifully and each have equal opportunities for vacations and fun. From the outside, it seems like they did it! So why can’t you?
That line of thinking explains the first step to a successful blended family summer:
1. Kick comparison to the curb.
The Bible is clear about comparison. In fact, one of the Ten Commandments—the 10 most important things to focus on as listed by God himself—is not to covet (Exodus 20:17).
When we covet, we see something someone else has and want it badly enough to take it away from them. Although a successful summer isn’t necessarily a possession, we can still covet it. And that coveting leads to bitterness, disappointment, and possibly even sabotaging behavior.
Sound familiar? I hope not, but if it does, just know there’s a way out of this thinking. When I find myself in this state of mind, I immediately know it’s wrong, as I’m sure you do. One thing that has helped me snap out of it is to remember that God has a handle on the situation and gives us exactly what we need. Just look at this verse in Hebrews:
… be content with what you have, for God has said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 NIV
The bottom line is that God sees our situation and has it under control. This leads us to the next step toward a successful blended family summer:
2. Ask God for help.
Since God knows what we’re going through and holds the solution in His hands and in His timing, one thing we can do is ask Him for wisdom and direction. I have a love-hate relationship with this verse:
… You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives … James 4:2-3 NIV
Ouch. This hurts. I love this verse because it is clearly pointing us to God, but if I’m honest, I’m not always quick to ask His opinion. I can always find a way to make it seem like my motives are pure. Let’s face it, though—our motives are mostly selfish.
It’s human nature, and we all do it. But justification is the quickest route to failure. I’ve learned to check my heart and my motives and also ask myself, “Have I asked God what He thinks?”
Many times, it’s this last step that I’m lacking; and until I ask that question, it’s inevitable that I won’t get what I’m seeking, no matter how hard I try on my own.
Here’s the third step in having a successful blended family summer:
3. Make your plans with open hands.
We can want togetherness. We can plan for family time. What we can’t do is expect what we want. We have to be thankful for the family members who participate and not be angry or bitter toward the ones who don’t.
Blended families are complicated. Shared parenting can sometimes be impossible. There are a lot of unknowns and unmet expectations, but the Lord knows our desires, and we can go to Him with those desires and be thankful for what He provides.
Proverbs 16:9 says, “We can make our plans, but the Lᴏʀᴅ determines our steps.”
The good news is that God knows! He knows when we’re disappointed and can offer us comfort. He knows the injustices against us and the lies told or believed, and He can make them right.
Blended families—like all families—are made of broken people. We have to have patience and faith that in the end, God will bless us for our faithfulness and choices that honor Him, and He will also heal and mend the hearts of those we love, miss, and desire connection with.
Wherever you are in your summer, know that God is there with you. We have all faced disappointments and canceled plans, but we can’t let that drive our behavior.
So my advice? Be encouraged, pray without ceasing, and see what God does! Take the focus off you, and pursue what God has for you. He holds the answers and can fill you with joy as you wait for things to come to pass.
Here’s one of my favorite Scriptures:
Delight yourself in the Lᴏʀᴅ, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
I used to think of this verse as some kind of formula to get what I want. But over the years, as I’ve pursued Him and learned more about what it means to follow Christ, I’ve discovered that delighting in the Lord is the reward—not the thing we’re wanting.
When we delight ourselves in the Lord, the desires of our heart have a way of morphing and changing into new attitudes and prayers—prayers about less of us and more of Him. And isn’t that the whole point of following Him? To become more and more like Him in our thoughts and actions?
I pray your summer is full of sunshine, great memories, and new beginnings. And I pray that you see God’s hand working as you trust in His plan for your blended family.