Here are some additional tips that can help make your stepfamily work:
- Conduct stepfamily meetings
If you’re not in the habit of holding weekly family meetings, now is a good time to start. Family meetings are a helpful way for everyone to get together and voice their opinions, resolve conflict, and better understand one another. They are a helpful tool for any family, but they are absolutely critical in step-family situations, where people from two different households are learning to live with one another. Family meetings offer a more democratic way to manage the household and ensure everyone is heard. Aside from therapy, it’s the most important thing you can do. We offer some free information on conducting family meetings on our website, and our ebook version of this publication provides family meeting ideas specifically designed for stepfamilies.
- Start new rituals
Our e-book chapter Bonding With Your Stepfamily contains a number of rituals that can help everyone gel as a family. (Get the e-book: $4.99)
- Think about stepfamily in a new way
The very word “stepfamily” is often symbolic of a broken home. So try to get your kids to think of it as “stepping up” or referring to themselves as a blended family. It may seem a minor point, but accumulated over thousands of words or thoughts, how children learn to think of and refer to their situation can make a big difference.
- Making your stepfamily work: Never quit
One of the most important things you need to do to make it work is have a never-say-die attitude. Artlip, Artlip & Saltzman note that for many people, “If a remarriage seems to call for work and effort, they feel it’s easier to just ‘get out.’ But, after divorce, they often regret this decision and wish that they had tried harder.” One parent who worked through the problems they found in the very beginning states that, “We strongly feel that working through our challenges was a better decision than going out and starting over again with new partners, new families. If we had chosen that route, the whole blending cycle would have started all over again with new partners, new problems.” (Artlip et al., 1993, pp. 213, 212)
Remarriages fail more quickly than original marriages because blending families can be difficult, and too many people cut and run rather than face these challenges. If a marriage and family life is something you want, you need to prepare yourself for the long haul and lay all your chips on the table so to speak to make this new stepfamily work.
Remember that popular books and television shows always make it seem easier than it actually is. Problems arise and are then resolved in a half-hour sitcom or a two-hour movie, at which point everyone goes on to live happily ever after. This is not realistic, so don’t compare your own situation to these imaginary ideals.
Additional tips for making your stepfamily work:
- It’s especially important not to fight in front of the kids, who may be looking for any signs of another divorce.
- Look to involve the kids as much as possible. The more input and control they have over this new situation, the more cooperative they’ll be. They need to be active participants, not bystanders. This doesn’t mean ceding an unreasonable amount of control to them, just keeping them involved in the developments that will impact their life.
- Get creative: One couple agreed to have the stepmom babysit the kids from both families to save on childcare. Not only did it save money, but it brought everyone closer together. Think about your situation creatively and come up with solutions that work for you.
Don’t let your new blended family fail! Gain valuable tips for successful stepfamilies by learning from the mistakes others have made in our eBook Blending Beautifully. It’s just $7.99, (far cheaper than counseling or divorce lawyers), and all proceeds go to help kids in need.