Acknowledging Blended Families for National Stepfamily Day

I am extremely lucky to count myself among the 42% of Americans who say they have a step-relationship of some sort. I have been the recipient of the love of one amazing stepmother and the gaggle of lovable and accepting extended family members for over 30 years now. There is sometimes an understandable amount of hostility, jealousy, and stubbornness that goes along with new stepfamily arrangements. While I am not a stepparent myself, I have for many years now watched my mother, father, and stepmother settle into their respective roles in our ever-evolving family dynamic. From what I see, in order to have a stepfamily experience that stands the test of time, everyone involved needs to find a way to offer patience, flexibility, and communication to the equation.  

A New Family’s Perspective

My friend, Scott, who has recently remarried and began the blending of his and his new wife’s families. I want to share his experience here as a reference tool for both rookies in the sport of step-parenting and veterans who may need a quick skill-sharpening.  

First, I asked my friend what he thought the most surprising thing about becoming a stepparent was. I’m sure many stepparents would have a different answer to this question, depending on what stage in life they were in. I found his answer to be quite refreshing and exciting. As a dad who has two kids beyond high school and a teenager of his own, he mentioned that step-parenting his new family was an opportunity to re-think approaches and styles a bit. All parents can look back and recognize moments in which we wish we’d done things differently. Depending on the ages of the family members, step-parenting can offer folks the opportunity to do things differently this time around.  

Thirty Years’ Experience

The thing that has surprised me the most over the years has been how willing my stepmom and her family have been accepting my sister and I as theirs. I no longer use the word “step” when referring to most of my extended family, because that’s not how they feel to me. It doesn’t feel like there is a “step” between them and me. It takes a strong, confident, vulnerable, and open group of people to accept other people’s kids into their family with no conditions. I’m so grateful to be on the receiving end of love like that every day.

More Grandmas mean more fun.

When I asked Scott what the toughest aspect to adjust to has been he said, “Figuring out expectations for discipline and what my role should be in those moments.” He mentioned being apprehensive about discipline because he does not want to over-insert himself. I imagine Scott’s new kids, even if they’re too young to say, probably appreciate the measured hand he’s attempting to have.

Kids pick up on kindness easily. If you’re moving slowly and with intention because you’re attempting to give them space, they will feel respected by that. I also know as a parent kids can sense fear. Don’t forget to balance that space with a bit of confidence. Your new spouse trusts you with their children for a reason, trust your instincts to give space but don’t be afraid to hold the line when necessary either.

Building The Plane While You’re Flying It

The last bit of wisdom I want to share is the truest, I believe. Scott likens his experience as a new stepfather so far to “building the plane while you’re flying it.” In other words, admit to learning on the go and be ready to pivot when necessary. Very often there are going to be bumps in the road, and that, “strong relationships work their ways through those things.”

I buy into this, not only for a new stepfamily, but for ones that are going strong years later. Just when a family thinks they have the dynamic down, someone gets married or has a child. Then, every holiday, weekly dinner, and vacation set-up has to be recalculated and adjusted. Moral of the story is the flexibility and patience we talked about earlier. When everyone takes new experiences slowly, it offers all parties the opportunity to think about and express what they need from the situation.

The beauty of having more than one mom

A Few Stepfamily Take-Aways

To sum things up, Scott was able to confirm how important communication, flexibility and patience are to any stepfamily. Spouses need to communicate expectations to each other. Stepparents need to have some flexibility with their role as things develop. Everyone needs to have patience with everyone. I’d like to end by adding a few more thoughts, combined from Scott’s and my experiences:

  • Remember all kids will not adjust to new surroundings and new relationships the same way as their siblings might. Notice the differences and make space for them.
  • Do regular check-ins with your new partner to ensure you’re on the same page with how things are going. If you’re not, things may be highlighted in stressful, new situations. 
  • Kids are resilient – we hear that a lot. Expect them to bounce back from lots of change in a strong way but be ready when/if they don’t. Many kids may need help from professionals to sort out the trauma that can come from divorce, remarriage and relocation, especially if it occurred in a short period of time.

Celebrating National Stepfamily Day

So why this topic now? September 16 is National Stepfamily Day. Maybe you’re celebrating it by acknowledging the love of your long-time stepfamily or cultivating your new one. If you don’t have a blended family, I challenge you to curate a new-found respect for stepfamilies everywhere. We’re navigating some tough but really rewarding stuff together and we can use all the support  the world can provide us! Happy Step-Family-ing!

Looking for more ways to connect with your family? Check out how to Prioritize Family Time and come together!

Kristin Ray
Kristin is a children’s author, blogger, and public speaker. She is the proud mother of one amazing daughter and wife to a supremely supportive husband. She is dedicated to intentionally equipping women and girls with the knowledge and power to move through life with confidence. Kristin is a native of Lansing, Michigan, and a graduate of Michigan State University.



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