The Best Advice I Can Give Other Kids In Blended Families

As part of our Blended Family Friday series, each week we spotlight a different stepfamily to learn how they successfully blended their two families. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we'll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life!

Sarah Strand Koontz's parents are proof that second marriages can work. Both had been through messy divorces before they met and each of them brought a son into the marriage. (Sarah was born a year later.)

"They were able to find faith and forgiveness in the most tragic moments of their lives," Koontz told The Huffington Post. "Together they built a new family full of love and happiness. I am so proud of my mom and dad because they prove that divorce doesn't have to be the end of happiness."

Below, Koontz -- who runs the lifestyle blog Grounded and Surrounded -- shares more of her family's story.

Hi Sarah. Please introduce us to your family.
We are a family of five. My mother is Elizabeth and she brought her son Nick into the marriage. My father is Dr. Ray Strand and he brought his adopted son Donny to the marriage. My brothers were only 2 and 3 when my parents married. I was born one year and one day after the wedding. So we are a true his-hers-and-ours family!

(Photo courtesy of Sarah Koontz)

How long have your parents been together?
My parents just celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary. They always tell me that the first years of their marriage were the most difficult. They'd both been married once before. Divorce is devastating and the process of learning how to trust again takes time and persistence. They have built a beautifully strong marriage and are excellent role models for my brothers and me.

What were some of the biggest challenges growing up?
Living in a blended family is a unique experience. We all have a different story, a different connection to our parents and there were many emotional obstacles to overcome. My brother Nick kept his dad’s last name and spent time with him on a regular basis. My brother Donny’s first mom did not maintain a relationship with him which left him with feelings of abandonment even though he was surrounded by a loving new family. The ugliest memory from my childhood is the one time I choose to rub their noses in the fact that I was the only child who could claim both of my parents biologically. Although we do our best to live together as a normal family, we have to be diligent not to allow the past to define us.

What makes you proudest of your family?
Being part of a blended family teaches you that family is about so much more than blood. My parents’ divorce stories are tragic as so many divorce stories are. I am proud of the fact that they found the strength to write a new story with each other. Their faith, wisdom and hope for the future created the perfect environment for my brothers and me to grow up in. They chose forgiveness instead of hatred, future instead of the past and invested the hard work necessary to build a healthy home environment for their children. I love my blended family because it is all I have ever known!

How did your family deal with stress when you were growing up?
It started with this: At the beginning of their marriage, my parents made a commitment not to disparage their exes. This simple choice made our home a safe place. They were open and honest with us about our unique situation and never made light of our feelings. They loved each of us and they favored no one. I believe that forgiveness and faith are the reasons we have thrived as a family. To this day most people marvel when I share our story with them because they would have never imagined my family was born out of such difficult circumstances.

What advice do you have for other children in blended families who are struggling to get used to things?
Make a choice to focus on what is good in your life. Don’t compare your family to others. Forgive your parents even when their decisions have hurt you deeply. Write your own story and choose to live in the present instead of focusing on the past. Choose love over anger, even when you have a right to be angry.

Sarah Koontz
Sarah Koontz
Sarah Koontz
Johnny Sundby Photography

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