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Feel Like an Outsider in Your Family?

woman sitting alone on the rocks looking at the sea. Feel like an outsider in her own family.

It can be tough getting stuck in the role of observer, where you feel like an outsider in your family. Do you struggle to build a rapport with your stepkids? Or feel left out of traditions that were established before you were part of the family?

The ‘stuck outsider’ role for a stepparent

In a biological family, children go through phases of preferring one parent over the other. This can be tricky to navigate, but generally, both biological parents experience being the insider (the preferred parent) and the outsider. In stepfamilies, stepparents often get stuck in the outsider role, with the biological parent being stuck in the insider role. You and your partner may both struggle with this dynamic.

Try not to let this feeling of being an outsider overwhelm you or affect your relationships. It will take time to develop trust and intimacy with your partner’s children. If the kids are more comfortable cuddling with their biological parents, it does not necessarily mean they do not like you. Put yourself in their shoes: would you be comfortable in such close proximity to someone new? Most likely not.

How to feel less like an outsider with your step-family

Luckily, there are some simple steps that will help you to feel more at home with your new family.

1. Make time for your marriage

Remind yourself how much your partner loves and accepts you, even if their children don’t yet. You married this person, accepted their family, and it is not wrong for you to celebrate your lives together.

Make a big deal about your anniversary, schedule date nights or a romantic vacation, or anything else that makes you feel more loved and at home. If anyone makes you feel as if you are throwing your happiness in their face, stop and reflect on why they would feel that way.  You deserve to celebrate your love, regardless of what others think.

By making time for your marriage, you are creating a deeper connection with your spouse. This can help you feel more at home and shows your partner’s kids that their parent has faith in you, which means they are more likely to trust you as well.

2. Change things around the house

When you enter the house your spouse shares with their kids, you are entering a home you played no part in making. You’ll feel more at home if you play a part in decorating the house but proceed with caution. You may want to start with the master bedroom (a space that doesn’t impact the children) or something small like a new rug.

Here are some small changes to consider:

  • Changing cushion covers
  • Putting up artwork
  • Rearranging some furniture

Avoid touching the children’s personal spaces (such as their bedrooms) or making any big changes without discussing it with the family first. The kids may have attachments to things that you are unaware of. If they’re interested, involving them in the process of redecorating could be a good bonding activity and help create some neutral spaces in the home.

Doing some chores around the house can also make you feel more at home. Try putting together a shopping list or doing the grocery run with the kids. This will allow you to get a sense of their likes and dislikes as well, which can benefit you in the long run.

3.    If you feel like an outsider, enlist your partner’s help

If you don’t have any kids of your own, there is one thing you must keep reminding yourself: you are living in a stepfamily, but your partner is not. They may not realize how you are feeling or what difficulties you are facing.

This is not due to ignorance or a lack of wanting to understand. Your spouse does not know what it’s like to feel like a third wheel at family events. They haven’t had to make their own space in an existing family dynamic.

The best thing you can do is to communicate how you are feeling. It’s important to address your concerns instead of bottling them up; if you let them fester you may start to resent your partner for not recognizing how you’re feeling. Your partner may respond by facilitating activities to help you feel more included in family events. If your partner makes a point of initiating the events, it will help take the pressure and focus of you.

4.    Don’t try to be a biological parent

When you marry someone who already has a family, you do not replace anyone. Your stepchildren already have a mother or father, and if you try to take over completely, they will start resenting you. Additionally, if the biological parent is still in the picture, they may be uncomfortable with your actions.

Instead, make sure your stepchildren understand that you are a new addition, not a replacement. You want to establish your own place in their lives, not take anyone else’s place.

5.    Develop new traditions

All families have traditions. You may have had some with your family growing up, and chances are, your partner and stepchildren probably have some too, which you may or may not be privy to. You should never ask them to stop their traditions. Rather, you should create your own new traditions with them.

Here are a few fun traditions to consider

  • Making gingerbread houses for Christmas
  • Weekly movie nights
  • Weekly game nights
  • Baking together on the weekends
  • Daily bedtime stories
  • Friday night pizza parties

Encourage your partner to take part in these traditions too, so that you and your stepchildren can start to feel more like a family. You can ask if your stepchildren want to do one of the activities listed above so they feel more in control.

6.    Connect with your own friends and family

If you’re finding family life tough, it’s a good idea to immerse yourself in your own support system.  Spend time with close friends or your own family members. This will give you some space, and help remind you that you are your own person, and also give the kids some space from you.

It is a good idea to introduce your loved ones to your stepchildren as soon as possible. It shows them that they are important to you, and also that you are here for the long haul and are going to be a part of their lives.

You can avoid feeling like an outsider in your own home

There is a lot that you can do to feel less like an outsider in your own home. Remind yourself constantly that this is not about things being anyone’s ‘fault’. Transitions of any kind come with some challenges and a need to think differently for a while; be kind and consider everyone’s feelings, including your own.

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Integrating families Living together

Should a Stepparent Discipline Their Partner’s Kids?

Step-Parent Discipline

Does a stepparent have a right to discipline their stepchildren? It’s a tricky path to navigate, and almost certainly there’ll be missteps along the way. After all, being a stepparent is undeniably challenging, but with time and effort, it can be equally rewarding and joyful. Understanding the role you are to play in establishing and reinforcing boundaries for your stepchildren is crucial. We discuss some of the dos and don’ts of stepparent discipline.

Discuss your stepparent role with your partner

Before you jump in the deep end of parenting, discuss your role with your partner. Find out what their expectations are from you, and be honest about what you think you’re capable of. This may evolve over time, but it’s crucial you’re both on the same page. Once you both agree on how involved you’ll be in setting and maintaining boundaries you can have a family meeting to share with the children. The more communication, the better!

There’s no doubt you’ll probably hear the words, “You’re not my real mom/dad!” thrown your way at some point. Try to calmly explain that you’re not trying to take the place of their bio-parent, but that you do have their best interests at heart. It may not defuse the situation but it will help you both remember the role you play in their life.

Is it okay for stepparents to discipline?

The most important thing is that the whole family understands what’s expected of them. If you and your partner agree that curfew is 8 pm and that the consequence of breaking curfew is no devices (and your partner’s teen knows this rule), you should feel confident enforcing it. It’s not new information, the rule wasn’t created by you, you are simply being a responsible guardian. Be fair, be consistent, and above all, be patient.

You should have a very good understanding of how your partner chooses to parent and respect their choices. If they have chosen the respectful parenting path and you feel their children need more discipline, this is NOT your choice to make. If they are strict about screen time and ‘junk food’ and you think the kids should have more freedom to watch and eat what they want, this is NOT your choice to make. As a stepparent, you are in a position to help discipline your stepkids in line with the parenting choices your partner has deemed best.*

*This does not apply in situations where discipline has become child abuse. If you are concerned about your partner’s treatment of your children or stepchildren you should reach out to a child abuse prevention service.

Stepparent Discipline vs Punishment

Over the years, discipline has been conflated with punishment. There is an idea that children need to be ‘disciplined’ in order to learn how to behave well. It may come as no surprise that we at Blended for Life are big fans of respectful parenting. What this means is that we are constantly having an open dialogue with our kids, helping them learn, role-modeling the behavior we want to see, and setting and gently enforcing healthy boundaries.

There’s no need to fall into the role of disciplinarian. You might find that you stepparent most effectively simply by role-modeling being a thoughtful and caring person. You might become the ‘fun one’, more like a cool aunt/uncle than a replacement parent. Or maybe you are the boundary setter, calmly reminding the kids when they have pushed things too far, and being a safe place for them to retreat to.

This is not a “first-marriage” family

Both parents should come to terms with the fact that “ours is a blended family”. The functioning of the family unit differs from a family where the children live with their biological parents. Try not to idealize how a blended family “should be” or mimic a traditional family dynamic. It’s an unrealistic expectation and will make life harder for everyone involved.

So should a stepparent discipline their stepchildren?

  1. Understand what you mean by discipline
  2. Agree with your partner on your role as a stepparent
  3. Be consistent and be patient

A personal story from our founder

“My daughter refers to her bio-dad as ‘Daddy and her step-dad (my husband) as ‘Papa’. Papa is a little bit of a clean freak, and he can always be seen wiping up someone’s mess or complaining about someone’s mess!

One day, after dinner, my daughter got up and put her plate in the sink. She then proceeded to wipe her placemat and even the chair on which she sat (because her greasy fingers have been all over it!). I asked why she started doing that. And she said, ‘Because Papa does.’”

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Integrating families Living together

How to Manage Stepsibling Rivalry in Blended Families

two young boys playing in shallow waves

Stepsibling rivalry can challenge the most dedicated and loving of parents. Blended families are increasingly common, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to create one. Sibling rivalry can be tricky enough to manage in a traditional family, but navigating this dynamic in a blended family can be far more complicated. If you’re struggling to manage stepsibling rivalry in your blended family, we’ve got some tips that might help.

1. Communication is key to resolving stepsibling rivalry

It sounds clichéd, but communication is essential to a successful blended family. Organize a regular family meeting where all members of the blended family will be given the chance to voice their opinions and fears. To begin with, you and your partner can reassure everyone that they are all loved and valued members of the family. Make it clear that mutual respect and kindness are core values in your new household. You should also check in with your child/ren regularly, to allow them to express how they are feeling about the new family dynamic. A family breakup or a new family setting may challenge their worldview and they will need to talk about how they feel. Let them know how you’re feeling too, and how proud you are of them for being brave and open to these new relationships.

As well as communicating with your kids, talk regularly with your partner about any issues you are worried about. Hopefully, you have already discussed the parenting roles you will play for each other’s children, so you should both understand what’s expected of you. It’s not as black and white for the kids though. If they need help establishing their new relationships and boundaries, feel free to help facilitate opportunities to bond over shared interests. But where there’s conflict, don’t assume that every fight is a stepsibling fight. It’s completely normal for siblings to fight, so take a moment to try to assess whether they really need you or if they can figure this out between them.

2. Parenting stepchildren only works if everyone has the same expectations

Let’s face it; disciplining your own children can be hard at the best of times. So, when the children are not your biological offspring, things can quickly get more complicated. As much as you may love the children of your spouse, they are not your own. You and your partner should be clear about the role each of you expects the other to play in the parenting of your children. And importantly, your children should also understand this role.

You may worry that your discipline is too harsh, or (more likely) too lax compared to the way you parent your own children. It may be tempting to be more lenient with your stepchildren in order to keep things pleasant, but try to fight that urge! Parenting the children differently will only lead to a perception of unfairness.

It is quite possible that you will have a different parenting style from your partner, so it is important to discuss what you both feel is appropriate discipline (and keep having this discussion as the kids get older). Ideally, you should have an understanding before you move in together, but as long as you are both willing to make compromises you should be able to find a strategy that works for everyone.

3. Avoid taking sides

Although it may be very difficult, do not take sides or compare the kids. If you always take your own child’s side when arguments arise, you will very quickly alienate your spouse’s kids. Staying neutral and making an effort to stay free from bias will make a world of difference. (You may want to check out Amy McCready on Instagram for really helpful tips on doing this—for all parents, not just stepparents.) Where possible, let the children try to navigate and resolve these arguments themselves. Remember, all siblings fight, it’s perfectly normal.

Your child may feel betrayed by you not taking their side in an argument. Reassure them of your love for them, and their important role in the family. Don’t say one thing publicly and another thing privately to your child. Let them know that they can always come to you with any problems, but that you have to remain fair to all the children in the family.

Stepsibling rivalry FAQs

Q. What is the root cause of sibling rivalry?
A. Children have a strong sense of what is fair and what is not fair. It’s challenging enough with biological siblings, but when you throw the blended family dynamic into the mix it gets even harder. It may be harder for the parents too, to understand if they’re really being fair or favoring one child over another.

Q. How do you deal with stepsiblings not getting along?
A. Our tips should provide a good starting point. There are also plenty of books and podcasts you can refer to, from those who’ve been there. Don’t take all the advice to heart, there’s no one way to deal with it. You’ll have a sense of what you think will work in your house and what won’t. It’s not easy, it’s not particularly fun, but reassure yourself that they are learning from the experience (even if they’re driving you crazy in the process!).

Q. How do you help stepsiblings get along?
A. If it’s less about rivalry and more that they just don’t get along, try to find some opportunities for them to connect. Don’t force it, of course, but there may be a common interest or a common dislike that they can bond over. Maybe even a TV show that everyone likes to watch and can laugh about together.

Q.How do you stop sibling competitiveness?
A. Competitiveness is a little different from rivalry. It can be tricky if the kids are of similar ages as this leaves them open to comparisons to their stepsibling. Try to celebrate everyone’s successes, and don’t value one type of ability over another (eg. academics over sports, social skills over academics, beauty or looks over musical talent).

Stepsibling rivalry is normal, give it some time

It’s a challenging time for everyone; there are new relationships to navigate, maybe a new house to settle into, and new boundaries to establish. It’s only natural the kids will need some time to figure out how they feel about all these things. You may find there are additional challenges if some of the children are sharing their time between two households while others live permanently in your house. This can lead to a perception that the child who lives there all the time is getting more time, love, and attention from the parents.

Problems can arise if one part of the family moves into a house that was already home for another part of the family. Birth order also plays a big part in sibling disharmony; perhaps a child that used to be the eldest now finds they have an older brother or sister, or the youngest now has to deal with an even younger sibling. Every family is unique and has a different dynamic. Be patient and you’ll find what works for your family too.

Image via Unsplash

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Integrating families

I Don’t Love My Stepkids: What Now?

two children walking along a path, what if I don't love my stepkids

They’re words you probably can’t bring yourself to say out loud; “I don’t love my stepkids.” Marrying someone who already has children is a big thing. In fact, it’s a gigantic pile of expectations and pressure and a whole lot of nerve-wracking. The truth is, it takes a lot to truly love someone else’s kids. Here are some reasons why you might feel this way, and what you can do about it…

Is it normal to not love your stepkids?

Adjusting to married life can be challenging enough, but doing so while navigating your relationship with your partner’s children can be a minefield. You may go into the relationship expecting the love to happen automatically, so it might come as a shock when you don’t love your partner’s children the way you thought you would. After all, you love your partner, why wouldn’t you love their kids too? In fact, it’s totally normal to feel detached, jealous, or lack affection for your stepchildren initially.

Why don’t I love my partner’s children?

You know the Phil Collins song, “you can’t hurry love, no you’ll just have to wait, she said love don’t come easy, well it’s a game of give and take.” He was singing about romantic love, but the same goes for the relationship with your new stepchildren. Depending on how quickly you and your partner got together and how well you already know the children, you may have to work on the relationship for some time before you start to feel affection or love for each other. It also takes effort from both parties; if the kids aren’t interested in developing a relationship with you or are disrespectful, it’s perfectly understandable that you will struggle to feel love for them.

Is it me?

Sometimes there’s a genuine reason why you can’t love your stepchildren. Here are some reasons why you might find it hard to develop a loving, affectionate relationship with your partner’s children:

Traumatic Past
Many people who shy away from parenting—of any kind—actually find their trigger in their past traumas. As a result, they want to avoid the concept of a traditional, child-centric family because they fear what may happen to the children in case the marriage doesn’t work out.

Prior Experiences
If you have already experienced the end of a relationship or marriage where children are involved, you may not be ready to open yourself up again. Your new partner and their kids constantly remind you of the rollercoaster you just got off. The emotional toll that comes with loving kids is scary, which is why you find it hard to open up to your partner’s children.

Social Influence
You may have witnessed someone you know experience difficulties with children or stepchildren. You’ve seen the fallout and vowed to never make yourself vulnerable by having or loving kids.

Biological Causes
The biological connection cannot be overstated. Planning to get pregnant, going through a pregnancy with your partner, witnessing the birth—these are things that connect a parent to a child before they’re even born. Without this preparation and without the biological connection, you can expect the relationship to need time to develop rather than be overwhelmed instantly with love for your stepchildren.

What if there is no reason?
But what if none of the above apply to you? You’ve had a happy childhood, you’ve seen blended families successfully role-modeled, you don’t bring any relationship baggage with you, you don’t feel too fussed about the biological aspect, and yet you still don’t love your stepchildren. Are you a bad person? No!

The bottom line is, there may be no particular reason. It’s just not possible to force with young kids holding hands and walking along the pavement, but what if I don't love my stepkids

How to develop love for my stepkids

Here are some tips to help you work on your relationship with your partner’s kids:

Face your feelings
Be completely honest with yourself about how you feel towards your partner’s children, and examine whether there’s a reason why. If there is and it’s something you have the power to change, speak to your partner or take steps to improve the issue. If there’s no reason, acknowledge your feelings and accept that time and patience will be required.

Have a heart-to-heart
Talk to someone. If you can talk to your partner openly and honestly, this can be really helpful—being open about how you’re feeling means you can avoid bottling things up. Otherwise, speak to a trusted friend or family member, they might help you find some perspective.

Find common ground with your stepkids
Once you’re clear about your feelings towards your partner’s children, it’s time to begin improving them. Try to find common ground with the kids and use that to begin developing a bond.

Understand how the kids feel
Think about how the kids are feeling about their new environment. Did you move into the family home, possibly taking the place of a loved parent (in their eyes)? Did they move into your home, and now feel like it’s your house and not theirs? Do they seem shy around you, ignore you, or feel anger or resentment? Getting to the bottom of any reluctance on their part can help improve the relationship.

What not to do as you improve your relationship with your stepkids

These are the things you want to avoid doing—if you can manage this you’ll make your life (and theirs) so much easier.

Don’t keep score
If you’re really trying to establish a bond of love, make sure any actions you take are done selflessly and without expecting something in return.

Don’t push too hard
It takes time to become a part of someone’s life. You may want to love your stepkids and your stepkids may want to love you back, but you cannot force things to speed up. Every conversation, every fight, and every tantrum will eventually bring you all closer together. In the meantime; embrace the awkwardness, welcome the shyness, respect the boundaries!

Don’t listen to every opinion
Take the advice that works for you, discard that which doesn’t. Unsolicited advice can be the most unwelcome (and judgemental) so take it with a grain of salt. Other people do not know the ins and outs of your family dynamic; you know yourself better than anyone else and this is your family now.

It gets easier

It’s normal to go through an adjustment period when you become part of a blended family. Remind yourself that it will take time, and you can only do your best. Join support groups, talk to others in similar situations, and just continue to be patient—both with the kids and yourself. If you’re really worried about your relationship you can consider counseling.

Images via Unsplash

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Integrating families Living together

Who Comes First in a Blended Family?

who comes first in a blended family, your child or your partner

It’s a dilemma faced by many parents across the world; who comes first in a blended family, your partner or your child? In traditional relationships, the couple develops a relationship first, then becomes parents together. Blended families flip this, and it’s the parent/child relationship that has the history and the deeper connection. It’s easy to rationalize that the emotional and physical needs of your child are always the most important, but there will also be times that your partner will need to be prioritized.

Living in a blended family can be challenging. The mix of different personalities, needs, and expectations can be difficult to navigate, and at times may cause conflict. It’s important that you are able to spend quality time with both your new partner and your child – to maintain your bond with your child, and to nourish the relationship with your partner. But should you have a process for deciding who comes first when? Is it possible to avoid having to choose between your partner and your child?

Read more: Blended Families With Teens: 5 Things You Should Know

Putting your children first in a blended family

Parents have a unique bond with their children that is generally unconditional. This is different from adult relationships, which often have limitations and conditions. The child is dependent on their parent, and parents will naturally prioritize their child – not only is it a natural reaction, but it’s also what the child will expect. A new partner cannot and should not try to compete with the parent/child bond and relationship.

Most parents make their child or children the top priority in life. And as you create your new blended family, you will want to provide consistency for your child, whether they live with you full time or come to stay at the weekend or on holidays. If your children or your partner’s children are living with you, you may find that when you and your partner want to spend time together the children will want to get involved as well. Many blended families will do things together and find a way to make sure everyone feels welcome and involved, but it’s not always easy.

Your child always comes first if:
– Their health or safety is at risk
– Your partner is trying to discipline them in a way that you didn’t agree on as a family

When your partner comes first in a blended family

While the health, safety, and emotional wellbeing of the kids are vital, sometimes you will need to put your partner first. Your kids may be less than impressed by this, but it actually demonstrates to them what a loving relationship looks like. Young children learn about life through observation, they learn how to develop strong relationships by watching their parents and other adults. While your previous marriage may not have worked out, you still have the chance to show your kids what a great relationship looks like. This will help them develop resilience and good relationship skills in the future.

You are also role-modeling the way you want your partner to be treated by your children, and demonstrating their importance in all your lives. Blended families can be complicated. But loving each other, showing support, and understanding when your partner needs you to put them first will show your children that this relationship is important to you.

There are many ways that you can put your partner first, and it’s often small gestures that are the most meaningful. Supporting your partner’s decisions and their argument if you feel it is the right thing to do for the whole family can help them feel like an important and valued part of the family dynamic. It’s a good idea to set ground rules in a blended family to help with decision-making and discipline. If you have any issues with your partner, it’s best to discuss them in private so they don’t feel undermined. You can then talk with your children later if necessary.

Your partner always comes first if:
– Your children are being rude or disrespectful to them
– They are being undermined by your ex-partner or other family members

It’s not about who you love more

Who you put first in any given situation doesn’t depend on who you love more. You’ll likely find there are some situations where you put your child first and others where you prioritize your relationship with your partner. If your partner and your kids (and you!) can begin to understand this, it will make life much simpler. Your children will always be important to you, but you deserve the opportunity to enjoy and prioritize your relationship with your partner too.

Remember to offer praise to your family; let your children know when they’re doing well and tell your partner you appreciate their efforts. You can also offer specific praise to family members in front of everyone in the household as this will help you all encourage each other and strengthen your family relationships. In blended families, often the small things can make a significant impact.

My partner prioritizes their kids over me

It’s easy to feel like an outsider when you’re in a blended family but you’re not the biological parent. You don’t want to compete with the parent/child relationship, but it’s hard to feel like you’re part of a family unit if your partner is always putting the kids before you. Rather than feeling left out, try to understand your partner’s role as a parent and see things from their perspective. Discuss your concerns with your partner before things escalate – let them know how you’re feeling and make suggestions for how things might be improved.

Lead image via Pexels

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Integrating families Living together

10 Reasons Why Stepparenting Is So Hard

Frustrated woman with her head in her hands, Why is StepParenting so Hard

Parenting is a tough gig, no matter which way you look at it, but why is stepparenting so hard? (Dare we say harder than biological parenting?) There are many reasons why stepparenting can be challenging, especially if you step into the role after having children of your own. Here are 10 reasons why you might find it challenging.

1. You’re used to running your family a certain way

You probably like to do things your way, and that’s not necessarily how your partner does things. Parenting styles may need to be adjusted on both sides. Sometimes stepparents will have difficulty dealing with these changes because it feels like all their past parenting experience is being disregarded— and that can feel really frustrating.

To cope with this, step into the stepparenting role slowly. Be prepared to work together with your partner and be open to merging parenting styles where possible. It’s unrealistic to expect to make all the changes straight away, and perhaps some areas will be non-negotiable. The more time you spend getting to know each other’s children, the easier the process will be.

2. Your stepchildren may have a relationship with their biological parents

If they do, then try not to interfere. Expect that they will still have an ongoing bond with their biological parent even if they now live with you full time.  Respect this relationship and never badmouth this parent in front of your stepchild.  This relationship with their parent is likely to provide a feeling of security which is imperative to a child’s emotional & mental health.

3. You may feel like you never measure up

Your stepchild’s birth parent may be someone who is highly respected and admired by your stepchild. This can often make stepparents feel inadequate you might feel that you’re at a disadvantage because you simply can’t live up to your stepchild’s expectations.

How you can cope with this:  It’s important to remember stepparenting is not a competition. Your step child doesn’t care about how amazing their biological parents are, they only want to be loved and accepted by you. Furthermore, remember that blending families is challenging for stepchildren too! Work on building a good relationship first, and not so much on trying to be a “parent figure” right off the bat.

4. You feel insecure about your relationship with your partner

Have you sometimes wondered if they love their biological children more than they love you? Or does their co-parenting relationship with their ex make you feel insecure? Your feelings are normal! This can even be more predominant in the beginning.

Focus more on developing a good co-parenting relationship all together so stepparenting is about all of you working together as one cohesive unit. Everyone is one big team here, and the goal is harmony.

5. You find your stepchildren challenging

You’ve noticed some behavioral challenges with your stepchildren and you’re simply stumped about how to handle them. What now? When children behave in a challenging way, there is always a reason why. Sometimes it will be a developmental leap, which is very normal in younger children, or the transition to the teenage years with all the accompanying hormones. Perhaps they’re frustrated or confused by the new family situation, or something at school is bothering them. Other times it might be something more serious; your stepchild may be struggling in some way or experiencing stress. Discuss any issues with your partner and see how they want to handle the challenges. If it’s an ongoing issue that concerns you both you may want to consider turning to play therapy (for younger children) or counseling.

6. You feel left out sometimes

As the stepparent, you may feel left out or even excluded at times. You might feel that stepchildren favor your partner (their biological parent) over you, or listen to them more. This can lead to feelings of disappointment. Try not to take things personally. It’s normal that your stepchildren will feel more secure with their biological parent than they do with you initially, and that may change over time, or it may not. They too are trying to find their place in the new family dynamic.

7) Sometimes stepparenting is just really hard and tiring

You might find yourself tired of hearing “I miss my mom/dad…” or “Why don’t I live with them?” Your stepchild may bring up challenging topics about their biological parent (family law issues, finances, etc.). Dealing with this can be exhausting! Maybe you’re thinking, “I kinda wish you lived with them too!” and feeling guilty about that.

Know that you don’t always have to solve the problem. Sometimes, it helps just to lend a listening ear. And if you’re feeling frustrated and tired, it’s ok to give yourself a break and step away for an evening. Better to invest in some me-time and come back feeling calmer and happier, than to say something or behave in a way that you later regret.

9. You probably won’t have any legal rights over your stepchild

Unless you have adopted your stepchild, you likely have no legal rights. When it comes to making decisions about their education it’s the biological parents who have the say. If your stepchild is in an accident or seriously ill, doctors will need to seek consent from their biological parent/s before administering any kind of treatment.  Watching your partner make decisions alone, or in consultation with their ex can be hard. Offer your opinions if you have them, but legally the decisions are not yours to make.  Make sure you and your partner have discussed guardianship in your estate planning too.

10. Stepparenting can be confusing for all parties

Adjusting to the new family dynamic takes time. It might be confusing that members of the family have different last names, or maybe they’re not sure how to introduce you or their stepsiblings to someone. You might be avoiding the ‘step’ label, but still feel the need to explain why you suddenly have an 8-year-old child.

Don’t overthink this one! Nobody needs an explanation. Your family is unique and beautiful no matter what everyone’s names are. If you notice any awkward moments, ask your stepchild about it—they may be too embarrassed on confused to bring it up. It’s better to get these things out in the open early, to defuse any awkwardness and let them know the family is a team.

Stepparenting is so hard but so rewarding

Most stepparents will find their stepparenting journey one of the most challenging relationships they will ever experience. It does take a lot of patience and by no means should be approached with a negative attitude. Keep your eyes open for any signs of tension and slowly work towards defusing these, slowly but surely!

It’s not easy, but the rewards are amazing. It’s an extraordinary feeling when your stepchildren start to look up to you as someone who can solve problems and offer advice—and most of all, make them feel safe and secure.

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Integrating families Living together

5 Tips For Blending Families With Teenagers

teen girl sitting on bed looking at computer tips for blending families with teenagers

Blending families with teenagers is an exciting and scary time. It’s undeniably challenging to bring together parts of two families into one household, but children are the ones who generally have the hardest time. In the US in particular there has been a rise in single-parent, unmarried, and blended family households. While younger children may have an easier time adjusting, young teenagers and adolescents can find it more challenging to accept a new person (or people) into their family. Here are some of the ways you can help your teenager make a healthy transition into your new blended family dynamic.

1. Avoid the blame game when blending families with teenagers

Younger teens often will often identify the new family or step-parent as the cause of the breakup, and turn the step-parent into a villain. To avoid this, be honest and upfront about the reasons that you and your ex-spouse are no longer in a relationship.

2. Communicate new family dynamics

Teenagers may find it harder than younger children to accept a new parent or learn to trust a new family dynamic after the dissolution of their old family. Reassure your child regularly that no matter what happens, you are there for them. Be clear about the role your ex-spouse will have in their life, and help them find ways to connect with your new spouse.

3. Discuss new routines and expectations

Teenagers are more set in their ways than younger children and can be resentful of any new boundaries or routines. Make sure you discuss with your new spouse what the expectations are around parenting or disciplining your teen, and make sure your teen is also clear on how the new relationship is supposed to work. Check in regularly with your teen and your spouse to make sure you can address any problems before they escalate.

4. Teens need time to adjust to blended families

Teenagers will need time and space to adjust to the new blended family. Give them the information and the emotional tools to deal with the situation, and then give them space to accept the change on their own terms. You’ll need to check in regularly, but letting them process things in their own time can benefit the transition.

5. Teens still need attention and affection

They may not be as affectionate or emotionally expressive as they used to be when they were little, but it’s so important to realize that teens still need your attention & affection. Assuring them that you are always willing to provide these things can help to ease the transition to the new family dynamic.

There is no doubt that blending families with teenage children can be challenging. But with time and constant commitment  (and possibly family therapy), your blended family can learn to live together in a loving and supportive way.

Lead image via Pexels

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Estate Planning for Your Blended Family

Estate Planning for Your Blended Family

There comes a day where you may be unable to make decisions for yourself, and while the thought of it is something you would rather avoid. Unfortunately, death is something that affects every person and every family at some point. With this in mind, it is important for parents to always realise the critical role that proper estate planning plays. Estate planning can help to ensure your spouse is looked after when you are gone and ensure your kids (and even step-kids) are properly cared for, too.

Estate planning among any family is already a complex process to begin with. In a blended family, this particular factor can become even more complicated. How to write a will with step-children involved is a common question asked by parents who are part of a blended family. What are the proper steps to take and how should estate planning should work when you have a blended family?

STEP 1: Listing Family Members That Need To Be Named In The Will

Before you start setting up your estate plan, it is a good idea to first consider the individuals who will be named in your will. There are a number of factors to consider here. It is best to write these down and compile a list of names. Adding additional details, such as what role each name plays in your will can also be helpful.

You will also need to designate someone who will serve as an agent should you be unable to make decisions for yourself due, for example, to mental incapacity. In some countries, this can also be referred to as a Lasting Power of Attorney. This agent will also be responsible for implementing your will and estate plan at the time of your death, in this case also taking the role of the will Executor. Take some time and do research on the options for agents to find one that you feel you can trust.

In addition to an agent, you have to list the names of family members who will receive possessions and/or assets in the event of your passing. This will generally include your current spouse, as well as children.

You can also decide to look at options to include any step-children in your will. If you have a step-child, then your family is generally considered a “blended family”. In these scenarios, your will is likely to include additional names, apart from your biological children and your spouse.

STEP 2: Determine the Division of Assets, Amounts, And Possessions

Once you know who will be included in your will, it is time to take inventory of your current assets and possessions. When you pass away, all your belongings will be divided among the individuals in your will. It is up to you to decide how the division should work – you are responsible for stipulating what every name on that list will receive.

When it comes to estate planning, it is a good idea to first determine your wishes. How much money do you wish to leave your spouse in the case of your death? In terms of monetary value, many people start with a goal “sum.” This allows them to plan for the future. This could include setting up a savings plan or taking out a life insurance policy.

Assets that you already own need to be stipulated in the will. Make a full list of your current possessions. This could include items such as cars, houses, jewellery, heirlooms and more. When you have a full list available, it is easier to determine which items would be best suited for specific names on your list.

During this process, you can consider more than your spouse and biological children. Many people also include their step-children in the will. This means physical and monetary assets can be divided in such a way to ensure stepchildren are also taken care of in the event of your death.

Estate Planning Techniques for Blended Families

There are a number of trusts that can be utilized to assist with the estate planning process among blended families. Understanding the different options that are available can help you find one that suits your needs most efficiently.

Among the different techniques that exist, a marital trust still remains the most popular option. This provides more peace of mind to you and ensures everyone will be taken care of appropriately. In the case of your death, assets you own will be made available to your spouse as long as they are alive at the time.

Residual funds can also be addressed in a marital trust. The residual funds will only be distributed in the case of the spouse’s death. In such a case, the funds that still remain from the trust are divided between the designated beneficiaries – which can include your biological children. As well as any stepchildren that were part of your family.

Some people opt for an outright ownership technique, but there are some risks involved. While a popular approach for those who prefer not to work with a trust, you do not have full control over how funds and assets will be used. In this particular case, full ownership of all your assets and possessions are carried over to your spouse upon death. You do not have control over how the assets are distributed once your spouse claims ownership. This can still provide a good option for blended families. As the spouse may take the best interest of both your stepchildren and your biological children in mind.

For those who want to divide all assets at the time of death, a Family Trust may be the more appropriate option. In this case, you dedicate specific assets to each person named in your will. In this scenario, your spouse does not get full ownership of everything upon death. There will also not be a single trust that your spouse controls up to their time of death. Instead, multiple “pools” are used within the trust, each dedicated to a specific person named in your will.

Understanding Home Ownership in Estate Planning

Homeownership can help to ensure your spouse continues to have a place to stay should you pass away, but there are a few things to understand in these scenarios too. You would need to consider the type of marriage you have entered into, as well as the method used for buying the house.

Joint With Rights of Survivorship is a common structure used when a couple buys a house. In such a scenario, ownership of the house is transferred in full to your spouse upon your death. This ensures your spouse can continue to live in and own the home.

Should you have bought the house in such a way that you are the only one listed as the owner, then things can be a bit more complicated. Without taking appropriate action, the house may not be available to your spouse to stay in following your death.

It is possible to change the ownership at any time. You can choose to change the ownership to a Joint With Rights Of Survivorship, which can offer you more peace of mind.

Communicating About Estate Planning in a Blended Family

Death comes at unexpected times, which is why communicating about events in such a scenario is important. Unfortunately, many people fail to realize the importance of open communication about this topic with their families. Among blended families, communication becomes critical to ensure every person knows what will happen on your passing. And to provide them with certainty that they are important to you.

Be sure to discuss your decisions around estate planning with your spouse and (perhaps older) children, and why not with your step-children as well? Including everyone in the discussion is important. As you do not want to end up hurting their feelings or leading to unexpected surprises once your will is being read to your family.

When your family knows what to expect, as well as what would be expected of them, then things will usually be done without as many obstacles. The transition of any assets or possessions you leave behind will happen smoothly. As the family members already know what will be allotted to them.

Considering the Help of an Agent

Estate planning is definitely a complicated topic and becomes even more so among blended families. With this in mind, there are times when speaking to a professional with experience in the development of wills and estate plans can be helpful.

When you decide to obtain help from a professional, be sure to do some research. Find out which agents in your area are professional and have the appropriate qualifications. The individual should be highly experienced in multiple aspects of the law – as a will is a legal matter. Additionally, the professional should also have experience in financial subjects. Planning a will takes skills from multiple areas. To ensure assets and possessions are appropriately divided among those who are named in your will.

An interview with each potential agent in your area is a good idea, too. Ask about the pricing for their consultations, seek testimonials from others. And don’t be afraid to see proof of their qualifications.


A will and estate planning are important parts of life, not to mention end of life. These documents help to ensure your assets are divided in the way you see fit the day you are no longer with your family. Among blended families, understanding how to develop an estate plan can be difficult. Estate planning with stepchildren requires a more complex will than the standard options. But with the right advice and strategy from the start. You can ensure the overall efficacy should something happen to you.

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Living together Uncategorized

How to Best Support Your Child After Re-Marriage

Support Your Child After Re-Marriage

A divorce and a subsequent re-marriage isn’t just a stressful transition for you but also for your child. At a point in life, when you need utmost support and consideration from your loved ones, you need to be able to give the same to your child as well. This is especially true if you have a young child upset about your new husband/wife.

It is not easy for kids to become comfortable with a new person in their lives, especially a person who is going to have a more authoritative role in their lives going forward. Your last partner was their father or mother for a long time, and shifting that focus to a new person can be strange, uncomfortable, and stressful. Remember, you might be immensely joyful at the prospect of a new beginning of your life, but your child might not be ready for this new adjustment.

If you are constantly telling yourself and your loved ones ‘my child doesn’t want me to re-marry’, you must give this more thought. Where is there reluctance stemming from? How could you make your child more comfortable in the new situation? Here are some of the most important considerations you must keep in mind for the happiness and comfort of your child.


Be honest with your child

Having a child upset about your new husband/wife can be very sad and unsettling. However, remember that their reluctance to accept your new partner is not something they are doing out of spite. Things have been utterly confusing and unclear to them, and it is up to you to change that.

  • Keep age appropriateness in mind.
  • Be honest and have a discussion with them about what’s going on in their family.
  • Reassure them that it wasn’t their fault.
  • Explain to them if your ex-partner is going to be in the picture now or not.
  • Talk to them about how they feel about your new partner.
  • Encourage them to tell you what they like and don’t like about your new partner.

Keeping these things hidden from them will only backfire in the long run. They might hear something from an aunt in your family or from someone else’s kid at their school. Learning about your family’s business from someone else can severely undermine your child’s sense of security and make them feel as if you are not their best companion anymore.

To avoid all of this, be very honest about why your marriage failed and do not bad mouth your ex-partner. This is especially important if your ex-partner is going to be actively bringing up your child even after re-marriage. Other than this, be prepared to answer questions such as –

  • Where will I live now?
  • Can I still visit Mom/Dad?
  • Can I still do my favorite things?
  • Will I move someplace else?
  • Can I still keep my room?
  • Where will Mom/Dad live?
  • Can I still meet my best friend?
  • Will you send me to a new school?
  • Will we celebrate Christmas?
  • Will my new Mom/Dad scold me for this?


Reassure them that you are still their rock

Upon hearing that one of their parents will not be living in the same house as them anymore, children tend to blame themselves for the unrest. Make sure that you let them know that your divorce was not their mistake. Accept your own mistakes as well and help them understand that both their parents still love and care for them.

It is also common for children to talk about how their parents yell at each other or vividly remember the night one of their parents left the house without saying goodbye to them. Protect your child from such negativity and ensure that they do not blame themselves for the circumstances. If your ex-partner is not going to be in the picture anymore, help your child understand that the reason of re-marriage that has nothing to do with them.


Give your child time to adjust

There are numerous things your child is trying to get adjusted to.

  • Your re-marriage is solid proof for your child that his or her parents are never going to get back together.
  • If you have been divorced for a long time, your child might become insecure about sharing you with a new person.
  • Your child might think that you are leaving them for a new person and that they do not belong with either of their parents anymore.
  • He or she might believe that learning to love your new partner is some form of disrespect to their own parent.
  • Your child might begin comparing your ex-partner and new partner by excessively focusing on your new partner’s faults.

Parents often push their children too hard to accept a new person in their life. Rather than forcing them to do so, give your child time to address their concerns and help them do away with their insecurities. Do not force them to call your new partner ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’. Do not force them to spend some time with your new partner. Let them set their own pace and allow their relationship with your new partner to grow rather than forcing it.


Be there for your child first and foremost

Things are changing around your child rapidly, and you must ensure that you are constantly there for your child. Answer their questions honestly, do not fight with your ex-partner in front of them, and ease your kid to your new partner slowly. Let them spend time with each other on their own accord and do not push their relationship. Be patient with your child and ask your new partner for their patience and understanding. Lastly, if your child is still becoming violently opposed to your re-marriage, seek professional help.

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What are Blended Families?

Blended Families

A blended family is easily defined as two separate families becoming one via a second (or third) marriage. Blended families typically include step-parents and most often stepchildren, and don’t forget about step-grandparents and all the members of the extended families.

Blended families are sometimes referred to as reconstituted families or complex families. Newly blended families also come with their own unique set of challenges and benefits.

The Challenges Blended Families Often Face

When two separate families come together to live under one roof, the bonding doesn’t always happen right away. In fact, it can take up to two years (and sometimes even a little more) for blended families to adjust to their “new” family, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). So don’t be so quickly disheartened if your families are not blending perfectly right from the start!

Here are the most common challenges that newly blended families face:

Relationship Dynamics and Disciplinary Roles

When two separate families become one, a lot of different things are coming together—especially the relationship dynamics and disciplinary roles.

In some cases, an individual enters into a blended family without having any children of their own. Now, this individual who was once a fun, non-authoritative significant other, must step into the role of “stepparent.” This new role can become complicated, especially for a first-time parent.

The challenge still remains when both sides have children of their own. Consider that children of all ages may also struggle with grief over the loss of their previous family, whether the cause was a divorce or the death of a parent.

It takes time to figure out where everyone stands within this new family dynamic. Mutual respect and trust must be given and earned among everyone—and the appropriate roles must be assigned and acknowledged.

Financial Responsibilities

In some cases, entering into a blended family provides financial relief. In other cases, finances may be stretched a bit thin due to having to provide for more children plus paying a mortgage on a bigger home that can accommodate everyone.

Each financial situation is unique, especially since you’ll also have to figure out how money and assets will be divided among your new family in the event that something unfortunate happens.

Sibling Rivalry

Siblings already compete for attention in a nuclear family. The competition tends to become a bit more inflamed among step-siblings who may or may not feel comfortable around each other just yet.

With a blended family, you can have an only child that isn’t used to having to sharing the attention with another sibling. Or, in other cases, the children aren’t used to sharing their parent. Additionally, step-siblings are often strangers rather than siblings throughout the adjustment period, which can cause a rift between the step-parents and the biological parents, too.

Aside from allowing the kids to adjust on their own, all the parents should lay fair down ground rules for everyone to follow, including how the kids will be disciplined.

Feeling Like a Real Family

Bear in mind a considerable adjustment period for blended families sharing a home. More often than not, it ends up feeling like you’re two separate families bunking together and not like real family. Allow this to be the case, and don’t try to push too hard for things to blend perfectly and quickly.

Strong bonds can’t be forced overnight, especially if the step-siblings aren’t comfortable around each other or around their new step-parent just yet. Allow time and patience to let you find ways to transition into your new family dynamic.

The Benefits of Being A Part of a Blended Family

Of course, just because there are a number of obstacles to overcome with your newly blended family, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. There are also tons of benefits that come with this new family dynamic.

Here are some of the greatest advantages to being a part of a blended family:

Another Perspective on Parental Guidance

Arguably the most important aspect of having a blended family is that the children involved will get both a mother and father figure. This is especially critical if one or more of the biological parents are deceased or mostly absent from their child’s life.

Even if all the biological parents are alive and well, there’s a still an advantage there. Having an extra parent in the mix offers a new perspective on certain life situations, and that wisdom and experience can be passed down, helping to solve complex issues.

More Role Models

Not all step-siblings will be rivals, and for only children, the addition of a new sibling can be a very positive thing. Our older siblings tend to become our role models, our confidants, our oldest friends in life, and much more.

They help us learn about relationships and ourselves—plus, they’re like having a built-in buddy system (most of the time!)

A Bigger Support System

Becoming a blended family means having more people in your life who love and care for you—after the adjustment period, that is. This creates a much bigger support system for each individual in the family as bonds grow stronger.

Life is difficult and messy. Having more people to lean on when things go wrong, to celebrate achievements and milestones, to teach each other new things, and to be there for everything life throws at you is priceless.

Despite its challenges and benefits, a blended family at the end of the day is just that—a family. Hence, No family is ever perfect, but we’re all lucky if we get to be a part of one, blended or not.

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