Survival Skills for Stepfamilies

While a new marriage may create “instant” relatives, love and trust can take much longer to develop. The blending of two families brings many new relationships and opportunities. However, children may still have feelings of hurt, anger, guilt, or anxiety about changes such as the end of the first marriage. Parents, too, may still be working out feelings about these changes. While the new couple needs time alone to let their relationship develop and grow, the children may want a lot of attention, too. Good communication is more important than ever.

It’s not always easy for children to adapt to a new family but here are some ways that parents can help children (and themselves) through the transition:

  • Accept that conflict will be a normal part of blending two families.
  • Accept that the process takes time. It can take up to five years for two families to blend successfully.
  • If negative feelings come up in the family, accept them and talk about them.
  • Spend time alone with each new family member, and look for common interests.
  • Don’t insist that children call their stepparents “Mom” or “Dad.”
  • Respect the old family traditions and establish new ones.
  • Be prepared to develop new rules and routines.
  • Talk with your partner about your ideas involving chores, discipline, and other areas.
  • Consider having regular family meetings.
  • Be prepared to compromise.
  • Don’t hesitate to turn to others for suggestions and support, whether friends, support groups, or your EAP. Creating a new family is too big a job for anyone to handle alone.