Good Experiences with Step Families

Updated on May 14, 2010
V.F. asks from Scottsbluff, NE
14 answers

I am wanting to know of any good experiences you have had coming from a step family or raising a step family. I am at the end of my ropes with my husband and know that divorce isn't out of the question in the near future. My fear is that I know he won't stay single and I don't want to stay single either but I dread the thought of my kids being with some other woman and dealing with the going between houses all the time (which is why I haven't left yet) . So I just want to know what you have done in this situation to make it work and keep stability in your childs life. Comments of the negative sort regarding the divorce need not be written. thank you for your input...

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answers from Pittsburgh on

My mom remarried when I was in my teens. My stepfather was a wonderful man and very much a real father to me. It was a very positive experience. (Although I was wary at first, but came around and respected him because he earned it, he didn't demand it!)

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answers from Chicago on

My parents got divorced when I was 6 and my sister was 3. We grew up with two sets of parents, to whom we are still very close (even though our biological parents are no longer married to our step-parents, either). I think if kids know they are loved and prioritized they turn out pretty ok regardless of family make-up.

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answers from San Francisco on

Overall, the whole blended family thing is hard. I don't see why anyone would opt for that if there were any other way. I think the reason so many people get divorced is that they have no idea that it's going to be a lot harder than they think. Step families usually have issues and a figure I once heard is that it takes 7 years for a step family to gel.

My oldest son is from a previous marriage and my husband and I have had issues about parenting him.

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answers from Denver on

My husband is 42 years old and when he hears of a family, with children, going through a divorce, he still tears up. He was sixteen when his parents divorced.

Skim through the book The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce. It was a 25 year study done, following chidren ages 3 mos-18 for 25 years to track the impact of their parent's divorce on their lives.

My prayer for you is that you will somehow work it out. I am so sorry for your difficulty.



answers from Cheyenne on

Judy B and Nancy B both made plenty of the same things I was going to say...keep in contact with the other parent, keep communication alive, don't put your kids in the middle, don't ask your kids to "spy" and don't say anything negative about the other parent(s).

Personally, as a former step-child and now a married woman, I would first exhaust ALL the options in staying together. I have been through lots of parents when I was 3ish, my step-dad and mom when I was 12 and then my step-dad (same one as before- they got remarried to each other) and mom again when I was 20. Divorce is REALLY hard on the kids. Be prepared to do individual and family counseling before, during and after the separation and/or divorce. I blamed myself SO bad with my parent's divorce and became a very quiet, shy child because of it. With years of counseling, I came to figure out that it was not my fault and regained my more outgoing nature.

I can truthfully say that I have a great relationship with my step-mom and step-dad and I love them very much...but it took work, time and patience! When my parents divorced, my dad got custody of us and my mom has moved all over the country (so we have had experience with both an every-other-weekend situation when she was close, as well as only seeing her in the summer for 6 weeks and switching Thanksgiving/Easter and Christmas every other year when she was far).

My step-mom was more of a mom to me than my real mom (who wanted to just be my friend) and she worked SO hard to make it clear to everyone that she was not trying to take my mom's place, just trying to be there for my brother and me! She never said anything negative about my real mom despite my mom not liking her much. Now my step-mom and dad live in the same town I do and I love having them around to see my kiddos. I go to my step-mom for lots of advice. My step-dad is close to me too, but he's in the military and not married to my mom anymore so I don't see him often (though since these are his only grandkids so far, he comes through a lot more often than before- yes, both my step-parents love my kids like they were blood-just like they did for me too!)

One thing I would have to say is the "mom"/"dad" name issue was REALLY important to me. When my mom married my step-dad when I was 5, she told me- you decide what to call him, but you should call someone "dad" who deserves I decided to call him "dad". My real dad was cool with it (if he was hurt, he never let on) because he knew I now had 2 dads who loved me very much, but he had the privileged and distinction of being my real dad! When my dad married my step-mom, they also sat down with all us kids and gave us the same option...and because she had been such a strong maternal influence on me even before the marriage, I decided to call her "mom"- which really ticked my mom off (despite her conversation with me a few years earlier in regards to "dad") and so even now as an adult, when I am with my mom and am talking about my step-mom, I still feel like I can't call her "mom" and have to refer to her by her first's awkward and silly, but out of respect for my real mom's feeling, I just put up with it!

Anyway, with lots of work and persistence and openness, a step-family can work out well! Me and my 8 total bothers and sisters (step, half and real) can all attest that we all turned out "normal" (lol) without a lot of scars and we have learned to be EXTREMELY flexible in life and have learned how lucky we were to have 4 parents who loved us SO very much.

I could have written a novel on this topic, but I had better stop, so if you need/want more information or have specific questions for me, I'd be glad to talk and give you what I can- just send me a message! Good luck with everything!




answers from Denver on

I cant say I was a child of divorce, but my husband was and he turned out fine. I feel like he has a stronger sense of devotion to our marriage and that it didn't warp him. Not that it was all fun and games for him but alot of his issues stem from how his birth mom and dad are to each other. My husband had more problems with his mom and dad trying to pit him against each other, than his stepdad. His step dad is a wonderful man, who I can see many traits coming out in my husband. He considers my hubby as a son and while he was never referred to as dad, my hubby regards him as a father figure. Also several years ago his mom and stepdad divorced. His stepdad remarried to the most amazing women ( thus a step step mom) and we now have yet another set of grandparents for my daughter. I think what makes a blended family work is truly how you view others. There are those who feel like your only family is those that are related by blood, then there are those who can view anyone as a potential family member. Love makes all things possible. While you can't guarantee who your ex might marry, for yourself you can still make a healthy happy life for your children. Sorry this was so long, and I know it didn't really answer your question, but I thought you might like to hear of a family that worked after a divorce. Good luck to you and your family.



answers from Toledo on

My husband and I divorced many years ago. In order for your kids to have a good relationship with both parents, you need to never, ever say derogatory things about the other spouse--- it puts the child in the middle. (A good parent doesn't try to make a kid hate the other parent.) Remain on good terms, talk frequently about the kids, attend school functions and sports events, and have a regular visitation schedule. Act like grown-ups. It's really that simple, even if you're the one who got dumped on. Get over it. Move on. You aren't spouses anymore, but you're still parents, so don't punish your kids for your mistakes. Your children need both parents while they're young, and they will see the situation for what it was when they're older. It's a good life lesson for everyone---making the best of a bad situation, and learning that divorce is about a mistake the grown-ups made, not the kids.



answers from Salt Lake City on

I grew up in a step family. My parents divorced when I was very young and then both got remarried about the time I was 4. There definitely were challenges, but it wasn't all bad.
The big thing that I recall was that, when I was growing up it was in an area/time when step-families were not very common. I had to explain to friends (and even sometimes adults) that my step dad wasn't really my dad (even though we call him dad) and that my family situation was different. So I felt "different" from everyone else.
We visited my dad every other weekend. Our step mom was sweet and I know he loved us. We had friends that we got to see there, and stuff that we did with him that we didn't do with mom. But it was also not always fun; the expectations were different and sometimes it got a bit confusing what was okay where. (There were also some other issues based more on my dad and his personality that made it not my favorite place to go).

Before you go through with divorce, I would suggest counseling (maybe you've already done that and it's part of your decision). If things can be worked out, that would probably be best for the kids (again, I don't know the details, there are definitely situations when divorce is best for the kids and parents both). But if you opt for a divorce, there are a couple of things that are very important. First, maintain civility. That doesn't mean you need to be friends. But you will have to interact reasonablly. If you can't, then arrange for someone who can to be an intermediary (my granparents generally did drop-off and pick-up because my mom was still dealing with her issues, as well as my mom didn't drive). You should never bad-talk him or any new girlfriend/wife in front of your kids. If you have have an issue, take it up with the adults directly, when kids aren't around. And accept that rules may be different at his house, and that isn't a bad thing. Kids can learn pretty quickly that rules change with situation. Just enforce your rules firmly and consistantly, and as long as his are reasonable (keep kids safe, not overly harsh, make sure they do homework, etc) let him govern his house.

I hope what I've said helps a bit.



answers from Denver on

I'm so sorry. First, like some others, I would suggest counseling if you haven't already done so. Do everything you can to save your marriage if it's not a negative relationship (abusive, etc).

That said, if you do split up: I am a stepmom to 2. They were 11/13 when we married, 18/20 now. They are pretty good kids, but even in the best of situations it is very very HARD. Try to establish a working relationship with both your ex AND (if it happens to pass) the kids stepmom. Try to get your husband to establish a working relationship with (if it happens) the kids step dad. Having all the adults about it is one of the best things you can do so your life and the kids life is as smooth as possible.
I can't tell you how much difference this would have made in our life. (mom is an alcoholic, so it was tougher in our situation)

Don't say anything about the other parent/step parent that is negative. Kids will THRIVE on this when they go through difficult periods (pre-teen and teen years). Don't let them do it either!

Establish ground rules for both houses (homework,chores, etc), even if one house has less time with the kids. otherwise one parent is the "fun" parent (don't have to do anything) and the other is the "naggy" parent. Kids need stability and a routine no matter which house. It can get very tough if one parent makes the kids do homework and the other doesn't. let the kids have their schedule (sports, etc), and have both parents agree that they will transport and honor the schedule. (avoid "i'm not taking him/her because I only see her x nights and want to spend time with him/her instead).

Establishing as many mutual ground rules as you can will really help - but you do have to respect that you and your husband have different parenting styles, so everything wont' be exactly the same, and that's ok.

If you do get divorced, make sure the kids see a counselor. My step kids didn't, and it shows up many years later. Both have significant mom issues now (she more or less abandoned them after a few years).

Oh, and most important - take care of yourself. Don't get so wrapped up in guilt and/or making it right for the kids that you forget to take care of yourself.

Good luck!



answers from Boise on

I agree with many of the other posts. While it is not an ideal situation to have to share your children it can be done. As the others have said it is imperitive to make your children believe that while the marriage cannot be salvaged an amiable relationship between their parents can still exist. You don't have to like the guy but make your kids think you do (enough to be friendly). My ex has not had another relationship since we split but I have remarried. My daughter and my husband are awesome and love each other as much as any father and daughter could. My husband comes from a family of divorce and is very respectful of my ex and the relationship that he maintains with his daughter. I tell her that she's lucky-some kids don't have a father at all and she got two good ones. I am anxious about when my ex eventually does find someone-I hope that we can all continue to work together to make life as normal as possible for my daughter. Should the marriage end, I hope that you can both work together to make the best for your kids.
Also-as I mentioned before my husband is a child of divorce. His dad was never abusive or negligent or anything but he wasn't "engaging" either. My husband is a great dad and owes everything to his stepdad. They met and merged when my husband was a teenager so it was ugly at first but now they are crazy about one another. They talk to each other a few times a month while my husband only speaks to his biodad on birthdays and Christmas.



answers from Salt Lake City on

Sorry to hear about your situation. I hope it doesn't come to divorce for you. Would some marriage counceling help?

I'm stepmom to a 14 year old boy. His parents split when he was about 5; his father and I met (coworkers) when he was 6. My first advice is to take things slow. It was 5 years before we eventually married, which gave us all time to adjust to new roles slowly. I wish we would have done some family counceling, I think that would have helped a lot during the adjustment phases.

Luckily my DH and his ex have a cordial relationship. There's nothing saying you have to stay great friends with your ex, but you have to put the kids before you disagreements. DH and his ex are pretty good at that. I highly recommend the book "Mom's House, Dad's House" for working through joint custody/shared time/shared houses/co-parenting issues. I beleive they have a kids version, that helps explain changes to your children also.

For what it's worth, DSS usually likes going back and forth between houses. There are different rules and different leniencies and different things to do at each, and he figured out pretty quickly what he likes to do at each house. On occasion it's a little painful, like getting soccer uniforms and shoes to the right house for practices and games, but we live fairly close to his other house, so that helps.

One more thing - DH and his ex structured the custody so that DSS is at our house M and W after school till school the next morning, at the ex's house T and Th after school till the next morning, and they they alternate Fri-Sun. DH says this helped him immensely at the beginning when it was really hard to see the ex, as they each just dropped him off and picked him up from school (there wasn't much interaction).

Good luck!



answers from Provo on

My brother dated a girl who had been divorced and I was amazed at her and her ex husband. They were very grown up and from the time they decided to divorce they said it wasn't their children's fault and the children shouldn't be punished for their mistakes. They made sure they both lived in the same neighborhood so the children didn't have two seperate lives. They had one neighborhood, school, friends, etc. The children had weekdays with both mom and dad and they shared weekends. Their children were a lot better off than a lot of children from divorced homes.

My daughter has a good friend whose parents are divorced and it is hard because she wants to be included with her other friends for weekend activities, etc. but she is with her dad every weekend and he lives 1 1/2 hours away. I think to me the biggest suggestion would be to live close to each other.

The other thing is that no matter how many problems you have with your husband, do not involve your children. So many parents fight and talk bad about the other parent in front of the children. They are already hurt enough in divorce. Good luck, I hope you can work things out!



answers from Denver on

I'm a stepmom and stepdaughter. My stepmom is an amazing woman and is more like my mom than my mom. My mom doesn't think people need "a mother" after they're young kids but fortunately my stepmom doesn't think that way at all. I think you always need a mother.

I'm now a stepmom to three and am also more involved in my kids' lives than their mom is. Sadly, my husband and his ex don't co-parent at all which makes things very challenging. I wanted kids so it worked out well for me and they need an engaged mom so it worked out well for them. We moved less than 5 miles from his ex so we're near schools, friends and activities. The kids tell us they like having 2 homes because they are so different and they know they are loved by all 4 parents.

Extremely trying much of the time and all depends upon how involved a stepmom might be(and you and your husband).

Best wishes to you during what must be a very difficult time.



answers from San Francisco on

I have been the step-mom of a wonderful 11 year old boy since he was 16 months old. For the most part, it can be a wonderful experience when you and the biological parent get along, you might even turn out to be good friends. The child gets spoiled like hell for the most part. Look at this way, instead of having one set of parents and two grandparents to buy you stuff for your birthday and Christmas, you end up wit two sets of parents and four sets of grandparents. Two of everything, bday parties, Christmases, etc. Plus, both families have their own things they like to do so the kid usually gets to do it all. Truly it can be great. But you have to be careful about falling into the trap of "competing with the Joneses". You don't have to have better toys or games, you gotta remember you're a different family and every family is different.

But on the other hand it can get difficult if you and the new step-parent don't get along. You have to just remember that you're doing what's best for the kids and play nice while you are all together. It's like the old saying, "If you don't have anything nice to say..."

Keep a good routine going of the visits. Try not to deviate from the schedule too much and try to do as much together as possible. If your kids have a sporting event they are in, make sure that you are always there no matter what. If the other side of the family doesn't want to be there, let them do it their way. Children are smart and they will figure things out in their own time. But, again, if you are all friends, it can work out beautifully.

Good luck to you.

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