Blended Families Week: 3 Ways to Help Step-Children Get Along

BY: - 16 Sep '13 | Blended Families

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Growing up with a blended family had its share of challenges as well as blessings. Outside of the typical questions you have as the outside child, if you put your focus in the right place, you really can have the best of both worlds.

I didn’t appreciate as a child having these different sets of families who loved me and were available when I needed them. Instead of that outlook, I spent a lot of time focusing on the negative. I used to wonder what could’ve been had my mom and dad stayed together. What type of family would we have had if all of my siblings were created by my mother and father? I am their only child. I thought about those things because, back then, it was easier for me to complain instead of embracing the reality. It’s turning out to be a beautiful reality, but back when I was growing up I had resentments. I was jealous. I was jealous of my siblings who got to experience two parents in the home. They had our dad and their mom. I had my mom, who is simply beautiful, wonderful and amazing, but I still wondered what it was like to have our dad there too. Although everyone did their best to make me feel included, I still from time to time would feel like an outsider.

That jealousy I felt for my siblings would surface every time they shared stories about our dad. When my sister would say she was a daddy’s girl, when my brother would say, yeah you know daddy, were all reminders of what I didn’t have.  Once I stopped holding on to resentments and opened myself up to experience what God did bless me with, my relationships improved. I love my siblings, I always have. Now I realize I only felt like an outsider because I chose to. I know how important it was for me to feel loved and included so I make sure I do that now with all of my siblings. I have two lovely sisters by my mom, three wonderful siblings by my dad and I now have a new step-sister and new step-brother (my mom recently remarried).  And even though we are all adults, I want them to always feel welcome and included.

Being in a blended family is difficult for children. They can struggle with how and where they belong and how exactly to connect to their new siblings. Here are 3 ways to help the children get along:

1. Provide an opportunity allowing them to get to know each other. Their new sibling relationships shouldn’t feel like pressure. A new family is stressful enough. They will have questions and it may be uncomfortable at first, but give them time to adjust.

2. Be open and honest.Children can open up and share when they feel like they are getting the truth. They are going to want to know why this new relationship will work if the one with their other parent did not. Be honest, without bad mouthing, in order to make them feel secure in this new family structure.

3. Treat each child the same. All of the children should absolutely feel equal. Punishments as well as rewards should be the same across the board.

There are blessings in blended families. Although it took me a while to appreciate mine, I am grateful I got there.

BMWK –  If grew up in a blended family, how was your relationship with your siblings from that family?  What advice would you give on how to ensure that all of the kids feel loved in the family?

Check out more Blended Family articles on BMWK

About the author

Tiya Cunningham-Sumter wrote 635 articles on this blog.

Tiya Cunningham-Sumter is a Certified Life & Relationship Coach, founder of Life Editing and Author of A Conversation Piece: 32 Bold Relationship Lessons for Discussing Marriage, Sex and Conflict Available on Amazon . She helps couples and individuals rewrite their life to reflect their dreams. Tiya has been featured in Essence and Ebony Magazines, and named one of the top blogs to read now by Refinery29. She resides in Chicago with her husband and two daughters. To find out more about Tiya, and her coaching, visit and


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4 WordPress comments on “Blended Families Week: 3 Ways to Help Step-Children Get Along

  1. Anonymous

    I have several blended family problems.

    1) My man parents from a place of guilt. His son lives in Canada, us in MN, and so he sees his son once every 3-5 months. When I met his son, his son was rude and disrespectful to me, in front of his father. His father passively addressed it, bit still wanted me to try to bond with his child. Am I wrong to back off, knowing that his son is threatened by my presence, or should I keep trying?

    2) I asked that my fiance establish boundaries and respect for everyone, but I don’t feel that is happening. We share a bed, but when his son comes to visit, I am asked to sleep one the couch. I go along with it because I try to he understanding, but none of my friends, male and female, understand why the boy is sleeping in a bed that we share. Am I wrong for suggesting that my fiance tell his son to sleep somewhere else?

    1. Tiya

      No, I don’t think you’re wrong. Your fiance’s son is going to learn how to respect you, by seeing his dad respect you. You should definitely keep trying to bond with his son, because that relationship is going to be very importatnt. But you should have a one on one with your fiance about the message/lesson he’s sending to his son and that if he wants you two to have the best relationship, he will have to set those boundaries. Although it may be tough for him but his son is going to be better off as a result.

  2. Finally

    I find this paradigm of parenting out of guilt from so many, usually men, in divorce/separation and blended situations. They seem to feel like they’ve failed and that they’ve done something irreparably wrong to the children because, for whatever reason they no longer (or never did) live in the home with the child(ren). They want to lessen the pressure or lighten the load they believe the kid feels from living in a single-parent or blended household; they seem to feel like they owe the child that. They seem to want their home to be “the fun house” so the kids will want to spend time with them because they seem to feel like otherwise the kid(s) might think they don’t need them. It makes the custodial parent(s), usually mom, always “the bad guy” for providing firm boundaries, structure and discipline. Many times, even the custodial parent will function in guilt, or fear of losing the child, overcompensating for the perceived effect of the absence of the non-custodial parent, overindulging, etc. In the end, it often serves to handicap the kids in these situations, making them manipulative and entitled, even violent at worst, passive and unmotivated to grow up and find their way otherwise. The child(ren) then become so socially challenged they can’t form good long-term relationships. I’ve seen it so many times; it feels hopeless sometimes, yet another generational curse. We have to learn better, be better, do better–together. THANKS BMWK, for leading the charge!

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