Integrating families

Are Stepgrandparents Important in Blended Families?

Granparents kids scaled

Being a child in a blended family can be tough enough at times, even before you add confusion over new relationships like stepgrandparents, step-aunts and uncles. It can be a lot for kids to handle, so if you’re introducing stepgrandparents, take it slowly and be patient. Here are some of the top questions people ask about stepgrandparenting and blended families…

Are stepgrandparents important in blended families?

There is no right answer here, it depends on your own family situation. If you’re close with your parents, or your partner is close to their parents, then there’s a good chance you’ll want them to form a relationship with their stepgrandchildren. It doesn’t mean that this is an essential relationship though, and it’s not worth forcing a closeness if your or your partner’s parents are not already part of your life. But if you have a good relationship, grandparents can bring a wealth of experience, love, and richness to your children’s or stepchildren’s lives.

What are some good names for stepgrandparents?

One topic that comes up again and again with grandparents in all families, but especially blended ones, is the issue of what the grandchildren call their grandparents. It’s best not to force children to call their stepgrandparents anything in particular but let them do what feels right to them. Don’t worry if the children don’t end up calling their stepgrandparents the same thing as the biological children do. It’s important to let these things unfold naturally, but feel free to make suggestions if there’s something that appeals.

Name suggestions:

Classics: Nana, Grandma, Pop, Grandpa, Nonna, Nonno, etc
Classics with a twist: Grandma/Nana Mary, Grandpa/Pop Joe
Something more unusual: Grandmama, Grandpapa, Gigi, G-ma, G-pa
First names: If you’re comfortable, a variation on your first name

Is a stepgrandparent considered a relative?

Not for legal purposes, but it’s entirely up to you how you choose to prioritize the relationship. One of our favorite blended family quotes says, “Family is not defined by our genes, it is built and maintained through love.”

Tips for stepgrandparents

  • Be patient and take it slowly
    Both stepgrandchildren and stepgrandparents may feel uncomfortable with the idea that there is pressure to find affection and closeness. It’s okay to be a little hesitant and apprehensive at first. After all, it can take years to develop the trust and acceptance that characterize the best family relationships, so take things as they come.
  • Don’t play favorites
    It may feel more natural to be closer to biological family members, however, it is important for kids, parents, and grandparents in stepfamilies to make the effort to be as fair and equitable as possible. Children do notice and are affected when their stepsiblings are favored over them.
  • Don’t gang up
    It’s important for the different “sides” of the family not to gang up and take sides against one another. It can be easy for the grandparents to back up their biological grandchildren over their stepgrandchildren or their child over their child’s partner. The grandparents might have a hard time letting go of their child’s ex-partner, always comparing the stepparent to the biological parent. These behaviors are unhelpful and will create plenty of resentment.
  • Show interest
    Show interest in your stepgrandkids. While they may be shy toward you initially, it will mean a lot if you’re proactive about building a relationship. Babysit occasionally, join in events if you’re invited, and be supportive of the blended family dynamic.

Finally, have a grand old time

Let’s be honest, the stepgrandparent role in blended families is not an easy one but can be a very fun and rewarding one. Things can get complicated and messy in all family situations, let alone ones in which there are exes and steps and grands involved. So, it’s okay if things develop slowly, feel a bit unusual, or have their challenges. Have fun, where possible, or aim for things to be fun. Begin with grand intentions and generally grand things will happen.

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