NOTE: We found that Smart Stepfamilies had a lot of great data we could use and present in a clear fashion. Check out their site.
How Many Stepfamilies Are There?
Misc Stepfamily Stats
35 Million Americans are Remarried!!! Yep. Lots.
There are 35 million Americans in the US today who are remarried (US Census, 2007).
Stepfamilies Aren't Just From Divorce
Children of Divorce Often Divorce Themselves
Stepfamilies Are Hard Work
In a study by Deal & Olson, The Remarriage Couple Checkup, Thomas Nelson, release date Jan 2009):
The data supports their expectations
The remarrying of a parent is a stressful time for most children. Getting them involved in the wedding ceremony and process is a great way to welcome them into the moment and have them feel ownership and commitment to making it work. The good news is that there are plenty of fun and exciting ways kids can be involved, particularly in the ceremony itself.
The roles which come easily to mind are bridesmaids (for second marriages with older children), ring bearers (page boys), best man or maid of honor, again for older children, flower girls, and ushers- and if everyone is willing there is a lot to be said for this. Even if you are planning a very small civil wedding, it is still a good excuse to have those extra special outfits bought for the children, as long as they are ones they will enjoy wearing! And do tread carefully here.
Adam and Olivia involved their children in all the details of planning the wedding, and arranged that on the day itself their minister would add special vows for children in a second marriage. This was so that the children could be asked if they promised to love and honor their mother's new partner. A loud and firm 'We do' was heard by all present. In turn Adam was asked if he would love and support the children from now on. He was delighted to assert with conviction 'I do.'
Children Involvement In Wedding CeremoniesWays to include the kids
Be sensitive to the children's feelings and remember kids are often shy, so be sure to have some 'behind the scenes' jobs available. Second marriages with older children are terrific because they can obviously offer more help and take on more difficult tasks. They can help address the wedding invitations; a younger child can stuff the envelopes and glue the postage stamps. Feeling really creative? Have the children make the wedding invitations! If you are having a reception at home, the children can be even more inventive by decorating their own space, and any 'hands on' ideas you can have will make them feel a part of it all.
If a child is reluctant to be involved in any activity, and there may be many reasons for this, respect their point of view and never force a child's involvement. Gently remind them that their presence is of great importance and that will be enough if that's where their comfort level remains. But do make sure there is a photograph taken of all of you on the day. Remember you are beginning to create memories and a history for your new family. So, although this is your wedding day, if either already has a child of any age, you are marrying and blending a family. So listen to the kid's suggestions; they may have ideas which will surprise you. And don't forget to give each child a well-chosen wedding gift as a 'thank you' memento of the wedding.
The Family Medallion® Wedding: Including Your Children In the Ceremony
By Dr. Roger Coleman
The Family Medallion Wedding Ceremony provides resources for including children of the bride and/or groom in the wedding service. Clergy and family counselors alike have praised this ceremony as an important step in strengthening family unity.
“How can I involve my children or my fiancé’s children in the wedding?” This is one of the most frequently asked questions I hear when meeting with couples to help plan their wedding celebration.
Today, one fourth of all marriages include children, an average of two. This means that of the approximately two million marriages to be celebrated this year in the United States this year, over one million children will be present. As a result, “family weddings” are no longer the rarity they were just a few short years ago.
More and more clergy and wedding officiants have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t make sense to ignore existing children, either those of the bride or of groom or those the couple may have together, during the wedding service. “When children aren’t recognized in some formal way, you can see the disappointment in their faces,” writes Rev. Dennis Campbell, a North Carolina Methodist minister. “They feel left out. But when children are included, you can see from the excitement in their faces that they are having a positive emotional experience. And because marriage is a public commitment, it is appropriate that wedding guests bear witness to the couple’s pledge to care of their children.”
In reality, all weddings are family occasions. Two people never live in a vacuum. They commit themselves to one another in the presence of those who have supported them in the past and who will continue to do so in the future. With children present, the family nature of marriage only becomes more visible.
One Family’s Response
As Rebecca Webster, recently wrote, “When I announced I was going to marry Richard Avery, my eight year old son seemed happy. ‘That’s great,’ Jason responded. But his actions over the next few weeks did not reflect his initial enthusiasm. He really didn’t say anything negative, but I could tell he was nervous. I think he was worried about how his life might change after Richard and I were married.”
Rebecca and Richard found a simple and emotionally satisfying way to respond to Dustin’s concerns in the form of a family-oriented wedding service that gives children a meaningful role in the wedding ceremony. This three to five-minute addition to the wedding – known as The Family Medallion ceremony – can easily be integrated into any religious or civil wedding tradition. It alters the wedding in only one respect: after the newly weds exchange rings and are pronounced husband and wife, a transition is made to recognize that marriage is also a family commitment. Children are then invited forward and each child is given a special three-ring medallion – The Family Medallion. This symbol represents family love in much the same way that the wedding ring signifies conjugal love. It is the recognized symbol for family unity.
“Although both Richard and I had assured Dustin prior to the wedding that we loved him, we wanted to do something during the ceremony to show him how important he was to us,” Rebecca explains. We wanted him to understand once and for all that it wasn’t just Richard and I getting married, that we were coming together as a family.”
The Averys say they will never forget the moment during their wedding when Dustin was invited to the altar to stand between his mom and stepdad. According to his mom, “He just beamed as the minister explained to him the meaning of the Family Medallion. And when Richard and I pledged to love him, it was clear that he felt part of our new family.”
Young Dustin still talks about “our wedding.” “I knew that if Richard would do something that special for me, then he must really care about me,” he says. “And I like the Family Medallion because it includes me: there’s a ring for mom, a ring for Richard and a ring for me.”
Importance of the Family Wedding
The creation of positive stepfamilies is far more complex and far broader than simply acknowledging children in the wedding. Constant reinforcement and communication is needed. However, the wedding ceremony offers one very significant opportunity to focus on the importance of family relationships. Recently, I heard a wedding guest ask a young boy if he was going to be the best man at this dad’s wedding. He responded, “No, I’m the best friend.”
The “family wedding” also makes for a very unique celebration. Most guests come to the wedding already knowing what is to take place. It’s like going to a movie that you have seen many times before – you not only know the ending but have memorized many of the lines. Nothing new or unusual takes place except for the occasional blunder of the officiant or the nervous reactions of the bride or groom. This is not the case when children such as Dustin are recognized.
To acknowledge a commitment to your children during the service (or another special time) – to call them forward, to present them with The Family Medallion, to give them a hug – is to recognize that something new, something very hopeful is taking place right before our very eyes. Our callous and often cynical attitudes about marriage wilt away and we experience, out of the painfulness of the past, a new future taking form. And, as I hear repeatedly, “There was not a dry eye in the house.”
Note: Roger Coleman, an ordained minister, created the Family Medallion® wedding ceremony over twenty years ago. Since that time, the Family Medallion has been used in over 10,000 weddings annually. For additional information on family weddings, contact Dr. Coleman at [email protected].
How can step-parents best form bonds with their stepchildren? When a parent re-marries, it’s not unusual for children to go through a period of re-adjustment. Sometimes this can be a rather painful and difficult experience for everyone concerned.
In most of the articles you read authors look at the view of the parents. However, imagine being a preschooler who's mom is getting remarried. A new man has suddenly moved into the house and begun taking a lot of her mom's time and attention. Up to this point she has had mom all to herself, but now they have to share her with this “random guy.” And to top it all off, this man is now telling her what to do and punishing her when she isn't behaving well. You know what she's thinking, “I wish he would just leave!”
What’s the answer? Mom needs to have her new husband work extra-hard to develop a bond with this confused preschooler. It won’t be easy, but it’s part of the challenge of building a successful blended family. It will mean taking a sincere interest in the child and spending lots of special one-on-one time together. In particular, the husband will want to go out of his way to praise her when she is well behaved. At the same time, the mom needs to think about ways to formally supplement what he’s doing through family events, get togethers and even think about a formal ceremony using a Family Medallion pendant or ring as the sign of bringing families together.
Coping with Kids
Nothing challenges a remarriage more than the presence of children from a prior marriage, and most remarriage households contain kids. While 60
percent is the break-up rate for all remarriages, for those involving
children, the rates are higher, approximately 65 percent. The failure
rate is highest in the first two years, before these multiplex families
have even sorted themselves out.
If there are kids, partners to a remarriage do not get a developmental
period as couple before they are parents. And then, because it takes time
for family feelings to develop, that bond is immediately under assault by
the children. For that reason especially, every family expert recommends
that couples heading into remarriage prolong the period of courtship
despite the desire and the financial incentives to merge households.
Also, there can be resentment because a child sees their original family being broken apart. Compounded by the fact that the children do not have the same perspective as the adults on how and why their parents' marriage broke up they don't have perspective. Sometimes explaining this to a child works, but for younger children it more important to focus on the future and just move on with building an amazing family.
Working to understand a child's emotional state is really important. Parents need to work on having a deep empathic understanding of the emotional stress a child is going through and not just the typical surface level "this is a hard time" view. It is a lot of work, but it is worth it and will help create a tighter relationship with children.
Finally, both parents need to work on bringing the family together both formally and informally. Things like the Family Medallion Ceremony during the wedding event is one way, but others include family events and get together often and early. Things like BBQs, ball games, movie nights are all small moments that add up.
Article ListThe Family Medallion® Wedding
Melding Together a Blended Family
Bonding with your new blended family