If you are finding the job of being a step mom or step dad difficult, you are not alone. Movies and television shows would have us believing that success is inevitable when two adults with children meet, fall in love, and decide to blend their two families. And it all happens within a one- or two-hour time frame! In blended family life, real life, making it happen does not always come so quickly or easily.
The joys of blended family living
A blended family with two sets of step kids has great potential for being that great big happy family you and your spouse envision, and the rewards of being a step mom and a step dad are boundless. Finding an entirely new set of people to love and to love you is always worthwhile; and the simple act of expanding compassion, affection, and interest in others can have far reaching effects. It is not, however, all sunshine and roses. Being a step mom or a step dad can be gratifying, but try not to expect too much.
Step sibling challenges
Try not to expect that your particular set of step kids, no matter what their ages, will automatically get along. Most step siblings do have one important thing in common: none of them asked to be there. Blended family step siblings, whether they like it or not, have to share a home and learn to get along, despite seeing each other only on weekends or holidays when one set of kids lives with another parent.
One set of step kids may be older and live away from home, joining the step family only occasionally. It really helps to be patient and understanding, and to have reasonable expectations of how quickly step siblings want to, and then manage to, become a unit.
In a step family, territory is often an issue. Kids who have had their own rooms in a previous house may find sharing accommodations, even for short visits by step siblings, difficult to manage. In some blended family homes accommodations can be very crowded, but do try to make sure everyone has at least some private or personal own area in their shared room. Having their own place to put toys, books and clothes where no one will bother them can go a long way toward making visiting step kids feel more welcome and resident kids feel less intruded upon.
You must expect, and receive respect from each member of your step family, and each member in turn must be able to expect, and receive respect from you and everyone else. When you set your ground rules for living as a blended family, make treating each other in a respectful and caring manner an absolute and non-negotiable decree.
As step parents in a step family, even-handed and fair treatment is vitally important, because step siblings notice if someone gets preferential treatment or is not challenged when they refuse to follow household rules. Speaking or acting out in disrespectful ways among step siblings or between step kids and step parents, in either direction, must never be tolerated.
Step parents often feel they ought to love their step kids in the same way they love their own. The time may come when everyone in the blended family knows they are wholly loved and accepted, and it is lovely when it does, but to expect indistinguishable love right away is an unreasonable expectation.
Initially, all you can do is to be fair in your dealings with both bio and step kids, and to take a genuine interest in your step kids. It is usually easier, and a lot more genuine, to love someone for whom they really are and not just because you think you should. Remember, you choose your new spouse, and if those step kids seem very un-loveable at times, then love them through your spouse.