Stepfamilies are different.

Stepfamilies are in some ways like first-time-round families. They are also, in many other ways, vastly different. Most people who become a part of a stepfamily are unprepared for the differences. These differences can include:

  • Stepfamilies are more complex. There are many more family relationships in stepfamilies. There are likely to be grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and a parent living outside the family with no links with other members of the stepfamily.
  • Emotional upheavals. Family members may have experienced distress from the break-up of the previous marriage or relationship. Some may still be grieving for the family they have lost.
  • Huge changes. All members of the stepfamily, including those living outside the family, must cope with the change and make a number of adjustments.
  • More parents. There are more parent figures in a stepfamily and the parenting may be shared by someone outside the family.
  • Different likes and dislikes. There is no common history and different family members may have different ideas about how things are done.

Whether the previous relationship ended through death, separation or divorce, all members need to adjust to your new relationship.

Myths About Stepfamilies

Myth 1: "People quickly adjust to being part of a stepfamily."

There is no such thing as an instant adjustment. It will take time and effort for everyone to feel comfortable in the new family. Unfortunately some children may never feel comfortable.

Myth 2: "Loving and caring will develop instantly."

The idea that the new step-parent and step-children will instantly love each other and recognise each other's strengths is unlikely to happen. Love cannot be forced upon each other and the relationship may take time to develop.

Myth 3: "Working hard prevents the development of the 'wicked' step-parent image."

Step-parents come into families and frequently work too hard to make everyone in the household happy, and to avoid being seen as the horrible stepmother or stepfather. Unfortunately, this can create tension rather than harmony.

Myth 4: "Anything negative that happens is a result of being in a stepfamily."

Frequently children and adults blame their problems on the fact that they are living in a stepfamily. All families have difficulties, not just stepfamilies.

Myth 5: "Stepfamilies are the same as first-time-round families."

The expectation for the new family to appear like a first-time-round family with two natural parents and their children living in one household together, can cause pain for everyone. It leads to a denial of the existence of other parents and relatives. It is important to accept that the stepfamily will never be the same as the first-time-round family and to see the benefits of being in a stepfamily.