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.

Make decisions as a team

Think of your blended family as a unit. Consider holding regular family meetings to discuss problems and come up with positive solutions as a team.

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
  • 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

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 bonds that'll last a lifetime.

Sept. 22, 2012 See more In-depth