Much of what you hear about with stepfamilies revolve around the conflicts and struggles: Ex-spouse’s can’t communicate or peacefully co-parent, ex-spouse and new spouse don’t get along, children are feeling torn between two homes, and on and on the list goes.
With all of the bad swirling around, it’s no wonder people are hesitant about entering a remarriage and blended family situation. While it is true that stepfamilies must face a large level of conflict (especially in the beginning), there are benefits to being raised in a blended home. Despite fears you may hold, our children are in fact not doomed to a life of misery and future romantic relationship failures. They are learning and growing in their current situations and with time may even come to realize themselves that being part of a stepfamily can be pretty great.
Past surveys have found that many kids are able to see positives in one or both of their parents remarrying with some examples being:
- Additional grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins
- More gifts for birthdays and holidays
- New siblings to play with
- Enjoy seeing their parents happy again
- Vacations and other extras due to a higher combined household income
- It’s nice to be a part of a two-parent family
While these examples are things that kids are seeing and experiencing today, there are also long-term benefits to growing up in a blended home.
Flexibility and Adaptability
Changes in the home with a remarriage and the addition of a stepparent and stepsiblings can be seen as both positive and negative from a child’s perspective. They may have mixed feelings about the way their home and parent is changing to accommodate additional family members. Even when these changes are seen as positive, they are still something that needs to be worked through and it may seem to them as if suddenly everything is different. Rules are changed, they might finding themselves sharing a bedroom, routines and traditions can be altered and it can leave kids initially feeling like they are a stranger in a house they’ve lived in for years.
These changes, while they may cause initial conflict, eventually leave children with the ability to be more flexible and with a lesson of how to adapt in new circumstances. These are lessons that will benefit them throughout their future. Once a person is able to strengthen their skill of adaptability, changes in their life will overall be more positive. This is due to the fact that they know they can work through adversity, overcome a shift in their comfort zone and succeed in new situations.
Increase in Mentors and Support System
Having additional parent figures and extend family around gives kids the chance to have even more positive role models in their life. Additional life experiences, preferences and skills allows for children to have access to different types of information and learning. It also gives them more people to go to in times of trouble, additional family members to create positive memories with and the change to become familiar with varying personalities.
Getting to know new traditions, holiday plans, meals and habits expands their life into new areas. It also teaches them the important lesson that family is what you make of it. The ability to love someone isn’t constrained to blood ties or sharing a last name. There is one specific situation that this experience will prepare them for in the future….in-laws. The same need to change and get used to a new family will occur if they choose to marry in the future and experiencing these lessons early certainly gives them a leg up in that situation.
Resilience in short is the ability to bounce back after conflict, pain or despair. In stepfamilies, there will certainly be moments of conflict and feelings of loss that will need to be overcome. Resilience isn’t achieve through avoidance. You cannot teach a child how to be a resilient adult if they do not face and work through the conflicts before them. Tough situations that can be normal in a blended family allow our kids to have the ability to learn how to be optimistic even through hard times. By teaching them how to work through the process of the remarriage and joining of two families, kids can learn conflict resolution skills, constructive ways to communicate their needs and the ability to stay positive through adversity. These are lessons that will be carried with them throughout their lives.
Relationship Role Models
Depending on the age of the children when their parent divorced and the situation leading up to the divorce, many children may not have had the opportunity to see what a healthy marriage looks like. While viewing grandparents or neighbors enjoy a happy marriage is helpful, seeing the day in and day out activities of what makes a relationship succeed is extremely beneficial to kids. They need to see that marriage can be difficult, that conflicts can be worked through in a positive way and that it’s necessary to make your marriage a priority. Our children will learn many of their future relationship habits from us. If a little girl grows up seeing her mom being treated with respect from her stepdad, she will grow up expecting to be treated with respect. If a boy sees the ability of his dad to demonstrate healthy communication habits with his stepmom, he will learn and mirror those same habits as an adult. Our kids experiencing a healthy marriage at one or both of their parent’s homes will teach them valuable lessons for their future.
As with everything in life, our experiences have the ability to change us for the worse or the better. Helping our children with the tough parts of being in a stepfamily can teach them lifelong lessons that can positively impact them. Being a part of a blended home and the conflict that can follow does not have to mean that our children will suffer. It instead means that we, as parents, are given the unique opportunity to teach our kids coping techniques that they will use through the rest of their lives.