September 16th is National Stepfamily Day, which is a day to recognize these families across the United States. Stepfamilies are a type of blended family where two families come together to create a new family. In the USA, over 30% of those under 18 live in a stepfamily environment.
These types of families are becoming increasingly common. In my book, Blended Families: Recipes for Success, I make the statement that blended families are becoming the family of the future. More and more people are getting divorced, remarrying, and incorporating children from a previous relationship. It is important that these families are celebrated and given support.
This National Stepfamily Day, celebrate your own blended family. Here are some tips to foster strong relationships among your family members. Step-parenting isn’t easy. I’m here to provide insight on how to achieve a successful remarriage and blended family.
Becoming Comfortable With a New Spouse Requires Open Communication
Remarrying can seem daunting, especially if you already have children or pets with a previous spouse. I’ve been working with couples for years, and I can confidently say that it is possible to have a successful remarriage and foster a safe, loving environment for your children.
Starting a stepfamily requires open communication between spouses. Decisions about how the family will operate and what role stepparents will play in their stepchildren’s lives need to be made right off.
Some of those decisions may be:
Customs and rules for the new family. This might take some compromising.
How to include ex-spouses. This one may be challenging.
Discipline for younger children and who has the final say.
Finances for the new family: who pays what.
Once you and your spouse have discussed what your new family will look like, you can then include others in the conversation to gauge their feelings and opinions. Make sure you are actively listening to what your children, your stepchildren, and their other biological parent have to say to guarantee that everyone is on the same page going forward.
One final note about communication: have transparent conversations when negative feelings arise or when you believe something needs to be said. Sharing your thoughts with your new spouse can help prevent catastrophic arguments and can alleviate tensions that might be lingering between the two of you.
Bonding With Stepchildren Takes Time, Respect, and Patience
You can’t jump into a new step parent/stepchild relationship with the mindset that you will immediately click and form an unbreakable bond.
Time: This is important to allow for getting acquainted with the new additions to the family. Finding out likes and dislikes, as well as unique mannerisms, can help in understanding how these children see the world.
Respect: Be the stepparent. Let them know you are not interfering with the relationship they have with their biological parent.
The relationship you form with your stepchild needs to be unique to you.
Patience: To develop a bond with your step children, you will need to show a lot of patience and put in the effort it takes to figure out what role you will play in your stepchild’s life.
It is probably a good idea to start by only having the biological parent discipline and parent his or her biological children. This way, the children see that you aren’t trying to replace their other biological parent. Children will develop respect for you for paying attention to their boundaries.
Once you’ve developed a bond with your stepchild, you and your spouse can revisit what parenting might look like from the both of you.
Second Marriages With Adult Children Need Bonding
You might think that it’s not that important to form a strong bond with adult stepchildren because they don’t live with you and they’ve already started to establish their own lives. This is a misconception and can cause unnecessary tension in the family.
Having a conversation with your spouse about what your role might look like in his or her adult children’s lives is a great place to start to begin forming that connection. You won’t be disciplining them like you might young children, but you can still be there for them through the highs and lows of their lives.
Show genuine interest in what they have to say to you. Take the time to get to know them to gain an understanding of how you might fit into their lives. If they have their own children, see if they would be comfortable with you filling a role of a step grandparent.
Putting in the effort to still be a blended family when your spouse’s children have become adults can help solidify your new marriage and create a safe, loving environment for everyone involved.
Treat you adult step children like the adults they are and respect their feelings and opinions about how involved they want to be with you.
Bonus Tips for Remarrying
I have been working with couples for a long time, and I’d like to share some additional ways to have a successful remarriage.
Go into your new marriage with the idea that you will leave the past in the past. It is incredibly hard to move forward and care for your future if you’re stuck in the past. Try to leave any previous insecurities and fears in the past as you enter your new marriage. If you bring these negative feelings into your new marriage, you’ll be actively sinking the future and could drive your new relationship to divorce.
On the topic of leaving the past behind, try to avoid comparing your new spouse to your ex-spouse. I’ve mentioned this before in this post. Your new spouse is not a replacement. Comparing your new spouse to your ex-spouse could spark feelings of resentment, driving a wedge in your marriage.
To focus on the future, sit down with your new spouse and discuss what goals and hopes you have for your shared family. Work toward these goals together to develop the idea that you are a team. You can evolve your goals as your family evolves. Once you’ve started developing bonds, you can bring your children into the conversation to see how they would like your family to evolve.
Join in on the Celebration
Be proud of the blended family that you have created. Take some time on September 16 to share your gratitude for your stepfamily and celebrate your togetherness.
Continue sharing the love you have for your blended family and appreciate everything you have and each other.
Please share this with friends and family who also have blended families.