The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s demographic projections estimated that in the early twenty-first century more Americans live in stepfamilies than in nuclear family structures. That means that one half of all families are living within the heartache of unfulfilled dreams and the shock and disappointment of finding marriage and child-rearing to be much harder than anticipated. Ray and Debbie Alsdorf have experienced both the hardships and joys of a blended family, and their book, Beyond the Brady Bunch: Hope and Help for Blended Families, encourages others to let their hearts, minds, and homes stretch past the image of “perfect” and into the hope of God’s promise to restore, heal, and rebuild. They know it is possible to move beyond the difficulties and into the fullness of rich family fulfillment.
Beyond the Brady Bunch is not another series of how-to steps offered by people who are not in blended families, but it is a book written by a couple and family who have lived in the trenches and are willing to be vulnerable to reach out to other people in similar circumstances. This book is offered as a gift of encouragement that lets others know that, in spite of the difficulties that often arise when two families choose to blend into one, with a heart surrendered to God, it is possible to leave a godly legacy—one of love, grace, and forgiveness. Blended families aren’t just limited to those who are divorced with children but include those who are in step-families because of the death of a spouse, adoption, or the need to raise someone else’s children. Beyond the Brady Bunch offers practical information to others who are trying to figure out how to keep their spirituality and sanity within this ever-growing family dynamic.
A blended family is foundationally different from a first family in many ways. When unrelated people initially come together, they may not want to be part of one another. The Alsdorfs take the reader through some of the most common difficulties that arise during this initial attempt to build cohesion within the new family structure. Some of these issues include:
- The realization that you need to return to God for strength and real-life direction
- The bond between parent and child that is like super-glue and will defy anyone or anything that tries to rip it apart
- The children’s need for adult help to fit into the new family
- An examination of holidays, visitations, ex-spouses, and other new details of a second family
- The sensitive areas of a second family: discipline, relationships, and ways to build a plan for success
- A look at traps that women can fall into and the top ten mistakes often made as a wife/mother of a blended family
- An examination of a new kind of dad: his role in the child’s life and the financial and spiritual responsibility of fathers
Beyond the Brady Bunch looks at each aspect of these and many other situations through the eyes of both the parents and children involved and emphasizes the need to surrender every aspect of their situation to God alone. The Alsdorfs’ four children (now all adults) also contributed to the book by answering questions as children of divorce and writing the chapter “From the Other Side.” With Christ, it is possible for a proper foundation to be established for this new family and for everyone to experience hope and healing on the other side of the unique challenges created within the structure of the blended family.