Learning to Step-Parent Together

Blending two families can open new doors into love and life together, but it usually comes with growing pains. Here are some important things you can do to help make the transition easier. 

According to a Pew Research Center survey, more than four in 10 American adults have at least one step relative in their family – either a stepparent, a stepsibling or half-sibling, or a stepchild.

Many re-married couples in the process of trying to bring their families together would agree that their relationship status could be described as complicated. While they love each other very much, the children accompanying them on this journey into marriage may not like their new family members at all. These dynamics can make for a challenging road ahead.

Whether children are young or older, experts agree there are things couples can do to help make the journey of coming together less tumultuous.

graphic illustration of family

Develop a solid bond as a couple. Make sure you’ve dealt with the baggage from your previous relationships so you can focus on making this relationship work. Establish clear guidelines for dealing with ex-spouses, finances, and the challenges of being a stepparent, including personal space for children who may not be living with you, before the wedding.

Involve the children. Be intentional about bringing both families together to get to know each other. Keep the lines of communication open with the children so they know what’s going on. Some couples include their children in the wedding.

Recognize and deal with the losses. It’s important to validate losses for all of the individuals involved.

Discuss your discipline strategy. Agreement on how discipline will take place is critical. Stepparents should take on the role of discipline with stepchildren very slowly.

Accept continual shifts in the household. Due to the uniqueness of your new family, it will take time for people to feel secure. You must recognize that there will be some things that happen that are totally beyond your control.

Remember there are no ex-parents, only ex-spouses. No matter how strong your feelings may be about the other parent, he or she is still an important part of your child’s life.

Picture of Julie Baumgardner, MS, CFLE

Julie Baumgardner, MS, CFLE

President and CEO, First Things First

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