Stepfamilies are a fast growing and large group in American society. Don't believe us? Check out some amazing statistics about stepfamilies and blended families that will blow your mind.
The numbers tell the story: The US Bureau of Census relates:
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.
Blended families haven't been studied as much as you would think. More recently we're seeing an increase in the data, which has been great for helping us learn more about how these families function.
Define a Blended Family
A blended family is a couple and their children from any previous relationships forming a new family. The children may or may not always live with the couple, but will visit or be a part of their lives in some way. Another word for a blended family is a step family.
How Many Blended Families Are There?
Smart Stepfamilies states that over 29 million parents (13 percent) are also stepparents to other children. There are roughly 63,000 new blended families formed in the United States each and every month according to The Bonded Family.
The Blended Family As The Majority?
Some suggest that the dominant family will be the blended family within the next 10 years in the U.S. Unfortunately, the main data behind this trend is the fact that well over 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce and of the second marriages that occur, 75 percent of those end in divorce too.
We also know that most people end up remarrying so there is a domino effect. Sheer mathematics means the blended family becomes more and more common every day. Some other numbers to consider is the fact that over one million children experience the divorce of their parents each year and 65% percent of those children will end up in a blended family due to the remarriage of one or both biological parents remarrying. The blended family is a growing phenomenon.
Problems Experienced by Blended Families
Blended families have problems according to the data. Children who live in a blended family are three times more likely to need psychological counseling or psychiatric care than other children. They are also 50 percent more likely to develop health problems than children living with both biological parents, according to blended family statistics from World Village.
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.
When you're in the moment it is hard to rely on numbers, but it is important to understand the high level statistics to know that a) you're not alone and b) to help you make smart decisions.
So, How Prevalent are Stepfamilies?
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.”
Families have their good and bad times. Family is characterized by rewards and challenges. The same thing happens in stepfamilies.
Integrating a stepfamily is not easy. In some cases parents have a good time when they are together. Everything is perfect but when the children are back in the picture the situation is not as glamorous. 30% of weddings in the US form stepfamilies nowadays.
It may be as a result of the previous couple divorcing or the death of a spouse. A person may also have a child out-of-wedlock and after marrying the same will apply. In all cases children are involved and when either party decides to remarry a stepfamily is formed. Stepfamilies experience their fair share of challenges and rewards just like other families. The positive aspect is that these things eventually lead to tremendous rewards if the people involved do not look back.
There are six important steps that will make your journey manageable. You should step up with an aim of discovering a God who loves and forgives people in stepfamilies. None of the families in the Old Testament were perfect. Stepfamilies are not always as a result of sinful behavior. The family is good even though it does not match God’s design for an ideal home.
Do not have high expectations your stepfamily will integrate quickly. You should be patient. The process of building the family takes time. According to statistics an average stepfamily takes around seven years to form or establish a family identity. Pressure from parents does more harm than good.
Biological parents have to balance their energy and time to the marriage and children. At the same time it is crucial that they communicate to the children that the marriage is unbreakable. Children may be threatened at first but eventually they will accept it.
Parents have to support each other. A stepparent has to occasionally borrow power from a biological parent. The latter should show respect to the former and support him or her in parenting decisions. Children will in the long run come to respect the stepparent.
Things cannot change immediately. Children need to be given time to adjust. You should be ready to carry and honor any traditions they have from the past as you make others that are unique to your family. The last step involves being determined and trusting each other. The fruits of you effort will finally be reaped at the end of the journey of uniting a stepfamily.
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?
Article ListThe Family Medallion® Wedding
Melding Together a Blended Family
Bonding with your new blended family