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.
I am in a bind. It is obvious to me that my future stepchildren do not like me and they really oppose my proposed marriage marriage to their mom? Should I go through with my plans to remarry even though my future stepchildren are against the marriage? I struggle between my happiness and causing problems in their family.
First of all, in a second marriage that involves children, you're blending a family. That is rarely easy. And the research proves it is REALLY HARD, with 60 to 73 percent of remarriages involving children in divorce. And if the kids are openly hostile and opposed to the marriage, it stands to reason that you can expect an even rougher ride than the average couple in your situation.
The key thing to know up front is that blended families present parenting challenges that must be navigated with extreme care. Stepparents are often confronted with long-standing alliances and power struggles and that can be a shock initially.
Know ahead of time that you’re going to have to work extremely hard and very consistently to overcome the barriers and develop positive bonds with your new stepchildren. This will take some time and 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 kids and spending lots of one-on-one time with each of them. In particular, you’ll want to take special care to praise them at every opportunity instead of simply punishing them when they misbehave. In other words, make an intentional effort to “catch them being good.”
Because of the unique challenges involved, we recommend that those who are planning to remarry and “reconstitute” a family should seek professional counseling well before the wedding. Couples who attempt to “go it alone” may be setting themselves up for frustration and failure. Expectations, roles, and parenting styles should be clarified and openly discussed with the help of an experienced marriage-and-family therapist.
Yep, there are important rules to know. A divided parenting team will falter so make sure you follow these simple rules to keep your home happy and together. These rules will help you work together and keep you on the same side as a parental team. Remember, united you stand, divided you fall.
Rule #1: Be proactive. Before situations arise, try to talk about and anticipate boundary setting, expectations for behavior, limits you will enforce, your preferred modes of punishment, and the values you want to teach your children. Couples who get blind-sided by situations inadvertently find themselves on opposites more often than those who get out in front of parenting matters. You can’t anticipate everything, but being proactive will reduce the size of your blind-spots.
Rule #2: When in doubt, call a parental “pow-wow.” At my house (Ron), our children will occasionally hear the words, “I don’t know. I’ll get back to you on that.” My wife and I then have what we call a “pow-wow” or meeting to discuss our decision or how we will handle a situation. This is not a statement of incapability. You may have functioned quite well for many years as a single dad and are quite capable of making decisions and moving on with life. This isn’t about that. It’s about finding unity. Even if it’s inconvenient, go the extra mile to ensure shared agreement in parenting matters. You won’t regret it.
If your children object saying, “You never had to ask anyone before” don’t back away from the process. “That’s true. Before I married your stepmother I didn’t have to consider anyone else. But she’s my wife and I need to include her in this. Now don’t ask again. I’ll get back to you once we’ve talked.”
Rule #3: If you don’t appreciate how something was handled by the stepparent, call a private pow-wow to discuss it. Biological parents, the biggest mistake you can make in this situation is commenting negatively about your spouse in front of the kids or reversing their decision behind their back. Either of those responses under cuts his/her authority and power (which is already a delicate matter to begin with). Instead, first listen to their explanation (if you’ve heard from the children already, they may not have filled in all the details!). If you still wish the situation were handled differently, acknowledge their good intentions: “I appreciate that you were trying to teach Rebecca a lesson. I can see what you were trying to accomplish.” Then, calmly share your thoughts about the situation. This isn’t a competition. It’s about finding a shared position you can both support. Finally, negotiate what will happen “next time.”
Rule #4: Communicate major changes in rules or expectations side-by-side. Standing as a united front communicates solidarity. Suppose one of your pow-wows has resulted in a rule change. If you are still in the early years of your family it’s likely best that the biological parent take the lead in sharing the change with your spouse (stepparent) standing right beside you. The stepparent can certainly add to the conversation but you want your stance to clearly communicate your agreement with the change.
“Alright gang, I know for many years I’ve not required you to help with cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, but were going to make some changes. From now on, if you don’t help prepare the meal plan to stay until the dishes are washed or put away and the counters are clean. I know this is a big change so we’re going to give you some graceful reminders over the next few days, but plan on learning the new system.”
If your children toss a guilt-trip objection your way saying, “You’re only making this change because he/she [the stepparent] wants you to,” stand your ground. “You are a smart kid. Yep, she initiated this discussion, but we wouldn’t be making the change unless I agreed to it. Now let’s get on with it.”
Divorce and separation are things that many people dread. It is a painful process that most couples go through. There are a few cases where the decision is reached amicably and both parties are okay with the situation.
Most people are tempted to rush into another union. You should, however, take time to make a solid foundation. Before making a decision the children have to be considered. They should also be given time to adjust. Making them go through multiple drastic changes is not good.
Most blended families that have succeeded have one thing in common. The parents took their time, on average two years or even more after a divorce before remarrying. One drastic family change should not be piled over the other. The period of adjustment significantly increases the chances of success.
There are a few things that you should know early so that you do not end up getting frustrated. Do not expect to be in good terms with the children of your partner overnight. Love and affection develop gradually. You should let it happen at its own pace as you get to know them.
One way you can do this is by spending time with them especially in real life situations. Simply put the activities you engage in should reflect everyday life. You should also make an effort to make your children used to your partner. You should encourage your children to get to know each other.
You should discuss about parenting early. Get a common ground on how you can parent as a team. Be open to ideas and if necessary make parenting changes. The adjustments to parenting styles should be done before you remarry. This will make the transition smoother. Your children will not blame their stepparent for the changes.
Do not allow ultimatums. No one should put you in a situation where you have to make a decision between your new partner and your children. You should make it clear that you want both of them in your life. Insist they respect one another.
As mentioned earlier, do not expect too much. Do not expect the children to put in the same amount of effort to make the relationship work. This, however, should not stop you from putting time, love, energy and affection in fostering a good relationship. This investments and gestures may eventually pay off in the long run. Children should be given time to make a successful transition.
Irrespective of how many top tips for stepfamilies you get yourself accustomed with and how strictly you adhere to a blended family guide, there are numerous challenges that would shape up as barriers in your way to become a family that gels well.
Couples may get divorced because their relationship hits a dead end or if they develop certain irreconcilable differences. A parent might remarry in case of an unfortunate demise of the co-parent. In case of a remarriage, it is the kids that are subjected to the most dramatic changes. They might find it extremely difficult to bond with their stepdad or stepmom. Naturally, there are numerous barriers that have to be overcome to build a happy family.
Till then, it is a work in progress.
Blended family tips can help you to get started with developing cordial bonds with the stepchildren. But this act is not the sole responsibility of either the parent or the stepparent. Both have to take proactive steps to make the kids feel comfortable and positive about the developments. Neither the parent nor the stepparent should be indulging in demeaning the biological parent of the kids, undermining the role of the stepparent or fueling the sadness of the kids post divorce or remarriage.
Undermining the importance of the biological parent or the stepparent, rewarding sadness of the kids by becoming overprotective and seeing no faults on their part and trying to behave in an unnatural way to create a world of make-believe would all backfire while overcoming the barriers is a work in progress.
Both, the parent and the stepparent, must take positive and constructive steps to make the children feel positive. Kids should be cared for, given their space and the family should indulge in activities as a family. The kids were not party to the decision of remarrying or in the choice of the new partner their parent had opted for but they can always be party to decisions taken thereafter. Weekly or weekend routines, what the family should do on holidays or when there are festivities and special occasions can always have the kids as the decisive players. There has to be an effort to build a collective future and everyone has to be a stakeholder.
Neither can the stepparent be ignored nor the biological parent who has been divorced or is not alive anymore. The kids should feel accepted and so should the stepparent. The biological parent who has remarried should also strike a balance between living a new life with his or her new partner while not forgetting that the kids are an equal priority.
What do you think? Are we missing any key barriers to building a successful stepfamily?
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.
It is not surprising that many previously married people are entering the dating field. With more than half of all marriages ending in divorce, dating by divorced parents is obviously something done by millions of individuals. More often than not, the people re-entering the dating pool after their marriages end are now adding children to their dating resumes. So it’s not surprising that when two people meet, fall in love and get married, they each have kids. So how do you successfully merge your families?
Be prepared to fail
Yep, this is the first point because setting expectations is important. And its ok. Lots of personalities equals lots of different points of view and opinions and bumps in the road. Parents and children will make mistakes. Be prepared for a rough road and lots of ups and downs, it is perfectly normal and you should treat it accordingly. Be normal when it happens. You will reduce stress, anxiety and disappointment. In the end, what matters most is that you're all together.
Agree on the rules early
Not only are families merging but communication styles are too and so are personalities. Parents must agree on how to handle everyday things like homework, household chores, bedtime and more. The agreed discipline approach to both biological children and stepchildren is important so everybody is on the same playing field. The kids will notice. If there is a consistent message for the kids coming from both parents on what's right and what's wrong, it will make the transition for the children and parents easier.
Bring everybody together at the wedding
No matter how great the relationships are between parents and their future step-children are, the rubber hits the road when it is wedding time. The wedding is the perfect time to bring both sides together in a special way. Kids are smart and should be included in the decision making process during the planning process. It is also a great idea to formally have a Family Medallion Ceremony as a way to bring together both families. Read more about this ceremony and it's significance here.
Silence doesn't mean acceptance.
Check in all the time. Everyone needs to feel heard, especially a child in a newly-blended family. Regular family meetings are a must. Use them as a time to talk about what's working and what's not.
Article ListThe Family Medallion® Wedding
Melding Together a Blended Family
Bonding with your new blended family