For a long time, stepfamilies weren’t considered normal or average. It’s true that the dynamic of stepfamilies can be different from more traditional families, like having two sets of parents or figuring out ways to help your child deal with step siblings, but they aren’t quite as rare as you’d think. According to the National Parents Organization, 30 percent of children in America are growing up in a stepfamily with 1300 new stepfamilies being formed each day. If your only experience with a stepparent or step sibling is through Cinderella, that can be a hard number to wrap your mind around. Stepfamilies are becoming less different and more of the norm as the numbers rise. Of course, that doesn’t make becoming a stepfamily any easier. Finding your groove as a stepfamily, especially with new step siblings, can be a huge work in progress for everyone involved.
While kids are totally adaptable, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy road to becoming this generation’s Brady Bunch. No matter how old your children or your stepchildren are, there’s bound to be some mixed emotions, conflict, and even jealousy between everyone. Your children are having to get used to an entirely new life. They have a new parent, and now they’re part of a new family. There are siblings they don’t know in their house, siblings they have to share a bathroom with, siblings they have to share Christmas morning with, and siblings they have to share Mommy with. It’s not as easy as the movies make it look, and the laughs may not be as plentiful either. Helping your children learn to deal with their step-siblings is a big deal, but it doesn’t have to be scary either. There are 11 ways you can help your kids get on board with their new siblings without making them feel like they are less than or that their opinions don’t matter. It won’t be long before you’re done breaking up fights and yelling at all of them equally for wiping their boogers on the back of your couch.
1. Talk to Your Kids in Advance
It’s a huge change and upheaval to bring not only a new parent into your child’s life, but new siblings, too. Talk to your children in advance so they know what it’s going to be like and how you hope your lives will adapt. If they have to share a room with a stepsibling, make sure they know that far in advance, too. Do as much prep work for all of them as you can to make the adjustment as smooth as possible.
2. Let Them Create Their Own Relationship
You want all of the kids to get along and forge a strong sibling bond. But, you can’t expect them to become best of friends right away — some full-blooded siblings aren’t that close. Let the kids create and nurture their own relationship. You can help along the way, but if they aren’t besties, then that’s something you have to accept.
3. Spend Alone Time With Your Children
You’ll want to bond with your stepchild(ren), too, but don’t forget to make time for your own kiddos. Keep a weekly date night or plan an activity each month for just you and your kids. Use this a time for you to reconnect with your children and make sure they don’t feel like they gotten lost in the shuffle of your new family.
4. Don’t Make Them Share Everything
There’s not always a choice when it comes to bedrooms, I get that, but your kids should still have their own stuff. They don’t have to immediately split up their toys or start sharing clothes just because they have a new sibling. This can create a lot of anger and resentment towards the new stepsiblings, which will only add to the tensions.
5. Have Open Communication
This is a huge change and your kids are going to have a lot of feelings on the subject. Be sure to let them talk. They may come to you angry or confused, and they need to be reassured that you’ll let them speak their mind.
6. Find Shared Interests
You’ve just learned that your stepson’s favorite thing in the world is Mickey Mouse, the same as your own little boy’s. Take advantage of that! Go see Mickey On Ice together, pick out new Mickey jammies, or enjoy other activities that celebrates their shared interest. This can help break the ice for kids who might be shy and they’ll have something to talk about with each other.
7. If Sharing Your Home, Let Your Kids Show it Off
If your new family members are moving into the home you and your children already inhabit, let your kiddos be the tour guide. Encourage them to draw maps for their new stepsiblings, or show them the best places to hide for hide and seek. Your kid will feel like they were part of the joining of families with such physical, concrete acts.
8. Create The Same Rules For Everyone
So your new husband is fine with a few hours of TV before bed, but you and your kids use that to read and play board games. Time to make some compromises and new rules. Having two sets of rules for the kids creates a huge amount of conflict and resentment. You’re a family, and everyone has to follow the same rules.
9. Remind Them That Conflict Is OK, But Bullying Is Not
Kids fight — that’s just a fact of life. But your kids need to know the difference between conflict and bullying. Don’t let your children gang up on their new stepsibling, and don’t tolerate taunting, physical fights, or emotional abuse between the children. Bickering over a Barbie or who has to take the trash out is fine and normal, but hearing one of the kids say that the other child isn’t part of the family is not. Know when to step in and help create healthy boundaries for all of them.