Children & Adolescents Clinic

 Home Parent's Guide

Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0

Stepparenting or Blended Families

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 80% of divorced men and 75% of divorced women under the age of 45 remarry within 3 to 4 years of divorcing. Parents remarry sooner than adults without children. Approximately half the children born since 1970 will live in a step-family arrangement.

Family traditions and routines that are unfamiliar to others in a step-family may cause stress. If these stressors are handled well, the chances for harmonious step-family relations are certainly greater. The following list provides some suggestions that can help in the process of building a step-family.

  1. Remember that what began this blended family was a caring relationship. It is of upmost importance to nurture and care for the relationship between husband and wife. The stronger the relationship is, the better are the chances of successfully addressing the challenges of the new family.

  2. Strong agreement on limit setting and discipline for the children in the family is a plus and should be discussed long before the wedding. Usually the approach for discipline is a combination of both parents' views. It should be an approach both parents can live with and agree to follow consistently.

  3. Stepparents are most successful when they begin relating to their new children in the same manner they plan to relate to them in years to come. If new parents overcompensate and are overly generous or lenient, they will establish a pattern that the child will expect to be continued. If that pattern suddenly changes when the "newness" wears off, it will cause problems and resentment.

  4. One way to build a stronger step-family relationship is to begin new traditions. Certainly some traditions will be retained from each family, but new ones will give meaning and permanence to this new unit. Because children may be spending traditional holidays with another parent, new traditions can be built around other events.

  5. Establishing weekly meetings may be a successful way to begin communicating and developing family goals. Establish rules and an organized way in which all family members can freely express themselves in these meetings.

  6. Locate a stepparenting support organization in your community. You can learn how other families are addressing some of the challenges of blended families.

  7. Try to spend at least one "quiet time" period with your child (or children) daily. This is an opportunity to touch base during a busy schedule, and it can be calming and reassuring.

  8. Seek professional help when you need it. Health care providers or mental health professionals can help if serious problems develop. They can also answer questions you may have about blending a family.

For more information, call or write:

Stepfamily Association of America
215 Centennial Mall South, Suite 212
Lincoln, Nebraska 68508
(402) 477-7837

Suggested Reading:

STEPFAMILIES, STEPPING AHEAD; by Emily and John Visher; Stepfamily Association of America, 1988

YOURS, MINE, AND OURS; by Anne C. Bernstein; Norton Press, 1989

DINOSAUR'S DIVORCE; by Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown; Little, Brown and Co., 1986

WHAT AM I DOING IN A STEPFAMILY?; by Claire Berman; Carol Publishing Co., 1992

STEPKIDS; A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR TEENAGERS IN STEPFAMILIES; by Anne Getzoff and Caroline McClenahan; Walker and Co. Publishers, 1984

See also Remarriage: Helping Children Cope

Written by Patty Purvis, Ph.D.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems