Tips For Stepfamilies

A new baby in the family is always an event -- but if the newborn will be joining a blended family, you will need to pay special attention to the needs of the older siblings. Find out more about building a stepfamily in this article from mom and stepmom Susan Wilkins-Hubley.
Susan Wilkins-Hubley

Planning ahead
My husband and I never planned to have more children. It seemed we already had our fill while parenting three children under the age of seven at the time. Of course, the fourth child was quite a surprise to us, and we worked hard to ensure a happy arrival and "blending process."

The first decision for us -- and for most couples -- was when and how to tell our three children. We decided to let them know of their new sibling's impending arrival when I was starting to show. We sat them all down in our living room and told them they would be expecting a new brother or sister at Christmas time, and they were positively elated! News soon traveled to every neighbor and school teacher with whom they came in contact. We felt we were making great strides in creating a happy mood for our ever-growing family. The children were excited, so we thought we were doing all the right things.

Tell them yourself
Always let the children know about a new baby yourselves. Allowing another parent, relative, or friend to tell the child of a new baby can cause the child to feel left out of the excitement. The children must feel as though they are a part of the family and the announcement of a new family member is a very important event that only the expecting parents should share with a child.

A suggestion I give to many pregnant stepmoms is to include the children, step or biological, in the birth announcements. You can even take a family photo of the children with the new baby to include in the announcements!

As the pregnancy progressed, we had many long impromptu discussions with any one of the three children about their new brother or sister to encourage them to tell us their feelings and thoughts or perhaps any questions they might have about the changes that would occur. The general consensus was excitement, apprehension and curiosity. Our children felt a new bond amongst themselves, and happily discussed the new baby and his arrival often with each other. Parents should make the discussions regarding the new baby as casual and lighthearted as possible. A new baby should not be thought of in a heavy emotional regard, as this can cause the children to have unnecessary fears with regards to their own "place" within the family.

As step-siblings, I believe that open discussion about the new baby brought them closer as siblings and created a strong sense of familiarity and "family" which is something any stepfamily thrives on.

Announce it in a BIG way:
I'm going to be a big sister | I'm going to be a big brother

Give them an education
We enrolled our children in a wonderful program called "Kangaroo Kapers" at our local Children's Hospital. Most children's hospitals have such a program. The program educated the children about what to expect and how to cope as a child with a new sibling and busy parents bustling around the home. The children loved the program and attended together when we had them at once on the weekends. This program further bonded the children as siblings despite their biological differences.

A new sibling!
As the due date approached, the children became very anxious as they related the new baby's arrival with Christmas Eve -- my due date. I am secretly sure my stepdaughter felt that Santa was actually bringing her new brother as a Christmas gift she could hold on Christmas morning. Alas, the new baby did not arrive on my due date!

The children impatiently waited until New Year's Eve, when their brother was finally born. My husband wearily brought the three children into the maternity ward to show them their new brother and encouraged them all to hold him while sitting in an easy chair in my room. They all beamed as they crooned over their new brother. Not one jealous word was spoken.

Part of the family, part of the excitement
Making the children part of the excitement and care of the baby is the most wonderful way to create and maintain a happy stepfamily. Stepfamilies are often caught up in biological difference, jealousies, resentment, and overall difficulty when "blending."

If handled properly and with maturity, a new baby's presence will bring your blended family much happiness and a happy heart for

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