Forty-two percent of adults have at least one step relative. Thirty percent have at least one step or half-sibling. As far as divorce rates go, the United States ranks third, with 3.2 of every 1,000 residents getting a divorce. With divorce being so heavily baked into our society, that creates the path for second marriage (or third, or fourth…) and with that comes the opportunity for a step family. Nobody really blinks an eye today if you talk of your stepparent or step-siblings. There was divorce, a death, a dividing of assets, and potentially a dividing of custody. But eventually, that’s all in the past, spouses and households have become rearranged, and you just have a stepfamily.
A lot of conversation around stepparents can pertain to how the children deal with the change. Suddenly having a new mother or father figure in one’s life – particularly an adolescent’s life – can feel very tumultuous. And since children are still developing and vulnerable, the attention almost has to be entirely on how they’re adjusting. So how the new stepparent can feel in all of it can get brushed aside. However, it’s an adjustment for them, too. Here are bumps in the road to expect as a new stepparent.
“You’re not my real dad/mom”
Children may have respect for what their real parents say. They may not agree with it – but they won’t deny that their parents have the right to lay down some laws. They may also respect other adult authority figures in their lives like teachers and sports coaches. But stepparents? Not as much. If you are a stepparent who cares for your stepchildren and wants to guide them, you may find stepping into that role isn’t so easy. Research has found that the changing of the guards, so to speak, can be very stressful on families – particularly if the nuclear family that dissolved saw a lot of conflict and drama leading up to this change. Be ready to hear, “You’re not my real parent,” when trying to tell a stepchild what to do, as they may be generally suspicious of parental figures after their parents split up.