Thinking of forming a step-family?
There are many things to consider when becoming part of a blended family or step-family. The considerations include:
- Children – children rarely choose to be part of a blended family and often hold resentment towards their biological parent and the step-parent. The adults need to consider how the children will be affected by the new family arrangements and relationships, changes in the order of children, a different house or bedroom, and special needs children.
- Legal - while step-parents can and do carry out parenting roles, they do not have legal parental responsibility for a step-child. You should seek legal advice relevant to your will if you re-partner.
- Housing - parents need to consider the amount of space the family needs relevant to the finances available.
- Finances - costs change when families change. Parents need to consider child support arrangements, changes to government benefits, ensuring everyone gets a fair deal and the needs of the adults.
- Former partners – open and respectful communications is the best option to ensure that former partners are aware of new partners and arrangements.
- Parenting – new partners should discuss their views on child rearing and discipline, and where the responsibility lies on decisions. A new step-parent may not have parenting experience or realistic expectations of children. You should also discuss how conflict will be managed, the kind of step-parent you want to be and your relationship to the child's other parent.
- Extended families – a new step-family will often include new grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins which are important to the children. Consider how you will manage the relationship with these people.
- Special events and family rituals – rituals are important for children and families. Consider how you can retain some of the rituals of your previous family and start new rituals for the new family. Family birthdays, Christmas and other special events will also need to be considered.
Step-families are complex and it may take some time for strong family relationships to form. A strong bond may never be established.
Staying flexible, being able to adapt to changes, communicating often and clearly, and considering the needs of children first is important to step-families.
How Relationships Australia can help you
Relationships Australia runs courses to support step-families. You can find out about the Family and Relationships Skills Courses in your state or territory by clicking on the map.
Talking to a counsellor may help if you are considering becoming a blended family or struggling with step-family issues. It's best to seek help early, rather than wait to see how it turns out.