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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- Locate a stepparenting support organization in your
community. You can learn how other families are
addressing some of the challenges of blended families.
- 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
- 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
STEPFAMILIES, STEPPING AHEAD; by Emily and John Visher;
Stepfamily Association of America, 1988
YOURS, MINE, AND OURS; by Anne C. Bernstein; Norton Press,
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.
See also Remarriage: Helping Children Cope