It is very helpful if a stepfamily can start out in neutral territory
like moving into their own house or apartment. Avoid moving into one of the spouses
homes if it was the biological families home first.
Get in the habit of having a weekly family meeting. Allow each
member of the family to speak freely on issues. Use the family meetings to plan
vacations and fun. Accept influence from the children and give them a feeling of
control by allowing them some say so in family decisions.
A healthy couple relationship is a must for a stepfamily to exist.
The couple's relationship should come first with the children a very close second.
A strong adult relationship can protect the children from another family loss and
it can provide the children with a positive model of what a good marriage looks like.
Have realistic expectations. The expectation of "instant
love" between stepparents and stepchildren can lead to disappointment and many
difficulties. Let the relationships develop slowly over time. Don't force
relationships. Allow them to evolve with patience and understanding.
Understand that there will be loyalty issues. Since children are
part of two biological parents, they usually have very strong pulls to both of their
natural parents. These divided loyalties make is difficult for children to relate
comfortably to all of the parental adults in their lives. Understand that rejection
of a stepparent might not have anything to do with the personal characteristics of the
stepparent. As the children and adults learn that they can care for more that two
parental adults, then the loyalty issues and conflicts can diminish and the
step-relationships can improve.
Work at not getting the children caught in the middle of ex-spouses
issues. Do your best to maintain a courteous relationship for the well-being of the
Create new family
patterns and traditions.
Show respect for your stepchildren.
Let the biological parent do most of the discipline until the stepchild feels
comfortable with your parental role.
If your family includes "visiting" children understand that
they usually feel strange and like outsiders in your neighborhood. It helps if they
can have their own space in your home. This can be a drawer or shelf for their
personal possessions that no one else has. Some place or space that is all their own
is very helpful.
Include the "visiting" stepchildren in family chores and
projects. They will feel more connected to the group in this way. Allow them
to bring a friend with them occasionally to visit to help with the adjustment.
Because stepfamilies are born of loss, a mixture of feelings can show
their selves quite often. These feelings include jealousy, rejection, guilt, anger,
frustration, hurt and disappointment. Seek understanding when these feelings arise.
Allow them to surface and release. Empathize as much as possible. Try
to walk in their shoes and feel their feelings.
Children have a family history that can
cause conflict in trying to blend together as a stepfamily.
Develop new ways of coming together as a family and new traditions that are
just the stepfamilies.
As a stepparent don't try to
compete with the biological parent. Instead work on creating a
friendship built on
Tips for Stepfathers and
Tips for Stepmothers and
Tips for Remarried Parents.