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Raising happy siblings in a blended family

The early years can be particularly challenging.  Not only are new couples getting to know each other and developing their own relationship, there are relationships with biological and stepchildren to nurture as well.
  • Encourage all members to be patient (and lead by example) as everyone adjusts to new rules, routines, and environment and praise and reward your child when he’s done what you’ve asked – for example, ‘You were so helpful this morning with your sister. Thank you!’.
  • Put the rules on the fridge or an easily accessed area so everyone is clear on them and can refer to them.

Children typically adjust best when their own parent continues to be their main source of love and care, and also the main person who’s ‘in charge’ of them. This includes being responsible for setting behavior expectations and consequences.

Step-parents play a very important support role though. When you and your partner work together on applying family rules and boundaries, you’ll all adjust more easily.

As a step-parent you can help by backing up your partner’s rules – for example, ‘I agree with Mum on this. It’s your turn to wash the dishes tonight’. Sometimes you might have to back up the rules when your partner isn’t around. For example, ‘Your mum said you can only watch TV after you’ve finished your homework. Let me know if I can help you with it’.

If step-children argue when you back up their parent’s rules, you can be a bit firmer – for example, ‘When you show me your homework is finished, you can watch TV’. If there’s a fuss, your partner can follow up later.

As your blended family settles down and your child gets to know her step-parent, she’s more likely to accept it when your partner backs up your family’s rules.

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