Stepparenting is one of the most challenging roles. While biological parents enjoy a history since their child’s birth and a bond that comes more naturally, stepparents often come into the kids’ lives when they’ve already established their relationships with their biological parents. For this reason, introducing new spouses and possible stepsiblings following a divorce can be tricky.
Blended families make up an increasing percentage of the population. Pew Research shows that 113.6 million Americans are part of a stepfamily. Each day, around 1,300 new stepfamilies form. Unfortunately, these statistics are coupled with a higher divorce rate and greater chances of unhappiness among blended families.
Balancing two different households can be tough
One of the greatest challenges in a stepfamily is blending two different households. Unless the biological parents get along amazingly well, there is very often enough inconsistency to make the task of parenting—and stepparenting—more difficult than they already are. For example, if a set of rules is enforced in one home but not in the other, the kids might have trouble grasping how to swing back and forth between the two sets of rules or expectations and have behavioral issues.
Another challenge is triangulation among the kids, biological parents, and stepparents. In some cases, kids can grow jealous of their stepparents, and seek extra attention or cling to their biological parent. This can cause conflict if the adults aren’t prepared to handle it well, including setting firm boundaries while providing additional emotional support to the kids.
It takes time and patience
If a child dislikes the new stepparent, there can be painful conflict. Stepparents may feel hurt by the lack of acceptance, while the kids might resent that their other parent is being replaced. Sometimes, the kids may act out or lash out against the stepparents, who must conjure the patience and empathy to not become reactive.
There are many building blocks to account for when creating a blended family. With patience and persistence, it can become a thriving relationship. While you’re working on it, be gentle on yourself for mistakes, and understand that it can take a lot of time to get to a place where everyone can feel more relaxed and amicable.