According to a national Pew Research Center report done in 2013, 40% of new marriages included at least one partner who had been married before. In 2010, a Pew Research Center survey found that 42% of the American adults interviewed have at least one step relative in their family, whether it be a stepparent, a step or half sibling, or a stepchild. Having a stepfamily is not something most of us plan for, and the reality of being in a stepfamily can be quite different than our expectations. But different doesn’t mean worse. All stepfamilies have to go through an adjustment period together.
A stepfamily is formed as a result of a loss of a previous marriage or relationship. Children and adults have to be able to grieve the changes that happen as a result of death or divorce. Children especially may feel a loss of stability as a result of living in two households. They may be left wondering where they fit in with a new parent and new siblings. A child moving into a stepparent’s home may feel like an outsider or unwanted guest. In situations where the stepfamily moves into the child’s existing home, the child may feel like “unwanted visitors” are invading, and the child may feel resentful. One way to make the transition easier on all family members is to start fresh in a home that is new to all. But because this is not always feasible or practical, here are some ways to help make the transition into a blended family a little easier:
- Try to make the home more welcoming to all. If you have pictures on the wall, be sure the pictures accurately reflect all members of the family, not just the ones who have always lived in the house
- Take on a redecorating project together, to make the home “yours” as a family
- Try to incorporate furniture and furnishings from both homes
- Be patient and sensitive regarding children’s feelings. The blending of a family is a big change, and to the child it may feel like things are moving really fast. If the child now has to share a room, this can be a particularly difficult adjustment. Try to lower your expectations about “happily ever after,” at least in the beginning. Remember, there will be an adjustment period for all family members!
Being empathetic and understanding of each family members concerns and needs will go a long way. You are all in this together. With a few adjustments, you will be able to fine-tune your home to better include all family members.
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