One out of three children are stepchildren. One out of three Americans are in a step relationship. More than half of Americans today will be in one or more step situations in their lives.
These statistics about stepfamilies may seem surprising. Yet, history may offer an even more surprising description of America’s families from the past:
- There were less stepfamilies in the 1950’s than in the 1850’s.
- Remarriage rates are lower now than in the 18th and 19th centuries.
- In the late 1700’s in America, the average length of a marriage was 7 years.
As history details, a large number of stepfamilies in the country is not a new phenomenon. The main difference between now and the past is why there are so many stepfamilies. In the past, stepfamilies were created mostly because of remarriage after the death of a spouse. Today, stepfamilies are most often produced because of remarriage after a divorce.
When forming a stepfamily, remember these facts:
- There is no such thing as instant love.
- Stepfamilies require more flexibility.
- A stepfamily is born of loss. Family members may need a time of grieving.
- Negotiation and conflict are normal and expected.
- Individuals will have different ways of doing things based on his/her family history.
- Children are often members of two or more households.
- Children usually desire a continued relationship with the non-residential biological parent.
- A stepparent’s authority role takes time.
- Generally, the older the children, the more difficult the transitions and acceptance of stepparent.
Stepfamilies obviously face unique challenges. These challenges can be turned into great opportunities. There is hope. There are practical things stepfamilies can do to be successful. Families can learn strategies for strengthening the couple relationship, for co-parenting, and for building strong family relationships.