Foster new family relationships

It can be difficult for a child to navigate relationships with a new stepparent or stepsiblings. Your child doesn't have a shared family history with these new family members, and they may have different beliefs and ways of doing things.

To help your child form these bonds, you might identify shared interests among members of your blended family. Encourage your child to spend time getting to know his or her new family members. Be careful to let the new relationships develop at their own pace, however.

Encourage respect

It can take a couple of years — or even longer — for a new stepfamily to adjust to living together.

Don't pressure your child or other family members to make new relationships work right away. Instead, encourage all family members to treat each other with decency and respect.

Know when to seek additional help

Most stepfamilies are able to build relationships and work out their problems over time. Others need extra help. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, your child might benefit from talking to a mental health provider if he or she feels:

  • Alone in dealing with his or her losses
  • Torn between two parents or households
  • Excluded
  • Isolated by feelings of anger and guilt
  • Unsure about what's right
  • Very uncomfortable with any member of his or her original family or stepfamily

In addition, family therapy might be helpful if:

  • Your child shows anger or resentment toward a particular family member
  • One child seems to be favored over another
  • Discipline is left only to the child's parent, rather than involving both the parent and stepparent
  • Your child frequently cries or begins to withdraw
  • Family members derive no pleasure from typical enjoyable activities, such as being with friends
  • One of the parents is struggling with stress and can't help with the child's increased needs

Remember, making a successful stepfamily takes time. Encourage your family to get to know each other and develop new traditions together. Over time your blended family can build lasting bonds.

July 16, 2015 See more In-depth