Stepparent advice to help make blended families less stressful and create a more positive outcome.
In an article written by Alesha Thomas, contributing writer for Business Innovators Magazine, she states, “According to the American Psychological Association, 40%–50% of all first marriages in the United States end in divorce. The rate of divorce in remarriages is even higher—at approximately 75%. Experts predict that this growing trend will result in the ‘blended family’ becoming the predominant family structure in the United States.”
She goes on to say, “This type of family structure comes with a unique set of challenges that traditional marriage counseling and training may not address.”
These figures tell the story: Second, third, and more marriages are part of life in this country. For this reason alone, blended families are increasing in number. The children from each past marriage go on to have a major impact on a new marriage. Whether the “children” are adults, teenagers or much younger, they all cause challenges and add a new dynamic to a marriage. If they will not accept their parents’ new spouse, it dramatically increases the odds that this new marriage may not survive. But today, many marriages have children from more than one father and mother. The resulting family system is indeed complicated.
Surprised? The facts are in. I, myself have been in a blended family and have learned four key ways to navigate the challenges for a better outcome. I want to pass this knowledge on to other parents and stepparents, so they won’t have to repeat the mistakes I have made.
Accept the challenge. Embrace and accept it. You married for love, and now you have a new opportunity to learn to love your spouse’s offspring. Keep your focus in the present. Keep the reasons why you married out in front of you as a daily reminder of why you said “I do.” Remember why you chose this special person to live happily ever after with. It is easy to lose sight of the big picture and get tangled up in the small stuff, most of which you cannot change.
Use the wisdom in the Serenity Prayer.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things, I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
You married the children’s father or mother, and the same DNA is part of your new spouse’s children. Each of the children have redeeming and endearing qualities. Find those qualities and focus on them. That task may not be easy, but anything worthwhile is often not easy. If there have been several marriages and children from several spouses, the situation may be more complicated, but the idea is much the same. Your task is to accept the things you cannot change. Realize that the children are a part of your partner and special to them. You cannot control this part.
Be a team player.
Children always do better when there is cooperation, flexibility, openness, and respect in their lives. Keep the issues about your spouse’s ex and the new step-children to yourself. Remember that we are all different, and the family you are joining may have done things a certain way in the past that continues to influence both your spouse and the children. Be open to seeing a new way and learning about others’ personality styles, conflict resolution approaches, and methods of bonding. Knowledge is the key to understanding. We cannot understand without the facts. It is okay to be inquisitive and ask questions about how certain things were done so you can get a perspective on the way things might have to be in the present.
Make it happen. What you resist, persists. Be goal oriented. Don’t just complain —walk the walk. Get out there and be proactive. Try new ways, always with love, and if they fail—look for others.
These four tips are not magic. But I can assure you, as a marriage counselor, wife, mother, and stepmother: incorporating these tips will make things easier. Yes, there are painful situations that go way beyond these ideas, but these simple tips are a beginning. What do you have to lose by implementing them?
Have any other tips that have worked in your own blended family? Share them with us in the comments.