Advice for step-parents and stepsibling relationships

According to Family Education, over half of remarriages end in divorce. Merging families can trigger major issues for both parents and children.

Advice for Step-Parents

Challenges for Step-Parents

If children spend the majority of their time with their birth mother or father, they may resent the intrusion of a stepparent on their precious time during visits with mom or dad
The introduction of half-siblings as a result of the union between a parent and a stepparent can cause tensions and jealousies to erupt
Children being wedged together from both sides of the family have to get used to built-in brothers and sisters as well as a new stepparent
If the blending of the family involves a move or a change in schools, this can cause resentment as schedules and routines are disrupted
If any parent or stepparent involved speaks badly of anyone in the child’s family, they can become confused and unsure what side to take
Different discipline approaches between families make it difficult for children to know what boundaries to expect
Stepparents are often unsure how far to extend their role in disciplining a child that is “not theirs”
It is sometimes hard for a stepparent to command the same level of respect that children may naturally give their birth parent
When there is a difficult relationship between ex-spouses, children often feel caught in the middle

Tips for Step-Parents

The only true companions to step parenting are time and patience. Do not expect a stepchild to automatically become the new best friend of their stepparent or stepsiblings. Gradually, a stepparent will become more comfortable in their role and will figure out the particular dynamics in their relationship with their stepchild. There are, however, a few things to do to ease the transition:

Be there as a fixture. Attend sports activities, recitals, parent-teacher meetings, and other events important to a child.
Stepparents should discuss with their spouse (and, if necessary, with the child’s other set of parents) how they would like their child disciplined and agree on all discipline measures so that the child can expect the same consequences all across the board.
Arrange to spend some special time alone with the stepchild and let them know that they are just as important in their stepparent’s life as they are in their birth parents.
If an issue arises with the child’s other set of parents, confront those people privately and directly. Never send the child to be a messenger bursting with complaints.
Set up a family fun night to do an activity chosen by each child in rotation.
A stepparent should assure the child that they are not vying to take the place of the child’s other parents.
Join in family therapy to air any tensions, questions or concerns.
Never cast aside any affection a stepchild is willing to show; thank them and treasure it
If children are distant or introverted, honor this, and do not push them to join family activities if it makes them uncomfortable
Encourage stepchildren to talk to their birth parents about the new family dynamics if they are not at ease speaking to their stepparent
Understand that children may have anger and resentment about their “old” family not reuniting and their “new” family replacing the old one


Step-parenting rarely resembles the Brady Bunch. It takes a concerted effort on the part of all involved to build loving, lasting relationships between a stepparent and stepchild. The key to achieving decent connections between family members lies in commitment, time, patience and understanding. It can take many years for a family to feel truly “blended.”

Stepsibling Relationships

Sometimes relationships develop between stepsiblings that would seem to some inappropriate. Although it is impossible to control completely how feelings change and develop between members of the opposite sex, there are some actions parents and stepparents can take to discourage intimate relationships between stepsiblings from occurring.

The trick is to be proactive as parents. As with any lesson parents would like their children to learn it is best to train them before the problem ensues. For example, most parents begin speaking to their children and stepchildren about avoiding drugs long before the children might be tempted to experiment. To do otherwise would be negligent on the part of the adult.

Be aware of your tweens and teenager’s whereabouts and activities in the house. Parents are accustomed to keeping track of their children away from home. If intimacy between stepsiblings is even remotely a possibility then it is just as important to keep a wary eye open within your home. Are bedrooms accessible? Are there other rooms where privacy is easily attained? Parents should speak openly about their concerns; a lot can be learned by the reactions of the children when the subject is broached.


Limit the amount of time opposite sexed stepsiblings spend alone. There is a delicate balance between encouraging blended family bonding and discouraging intimate relationships from forming. Plan bonding activities to do as a family where mature adults supervise stepsibling interaction.

Situate sleeping arrangements and bathroom facilities in such a way that makes it easy for parents and stepparents to monitor the comings and goings of the household. In the picture “Yours, Mine and Ours” with Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda two large families blended into one. Bedrooms and bathroom use was designated with military like precision. Although it may seem extreme to some, assigning specific bedrooms and bathrooms for use by different genders allows for easier monitoring of activity.

Keep in mind that these recommendations are for blended families that have minors living in the same home. If the stepsiblings in question never cohabitate or are consenting adults living outside the home different considerations should be made. Each blended family must consider its unique circumstances when taking decisive action regarding stepsibling relationships. If your family needs help establishing boundaries, bonding appropriately or have any questions regarding blending a family consult a professional family therapist who specializes in stepsibling relationships.

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