Every day thousands of people face getting to know a new family they never knew they wanted. That’s one of the realities of the current divorce rate in North America — the addition of step-parents and step-siblings into people’s lives.
And it’s a reality that people can either turn into an opportunity for family harmony, or, through resistance and anger, create havoc in the relationships around them.
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I’m not promoting divorce, I’m promoting acceptance of any new conjoined family members after the fact.
Say one of your parents has remarried. Trust me, the children of this new partner were no more asking for you to become their relative than you were for them.
But there they are. Innocent as you are, curious, and undoubtedly a little scared. You could be nasty, critical, unwelcoming, and make everyone miserable — but to what purpose? It won’t change the situation — your parents have divorced, they’re moving on, and so should you.
Consider the alternative: Your parent has found something unique and loveable in the new partner. That person’s children must also have positive qualities, if only you would be willing to see them. By opening your mind, and eventually your heart, you gain a bigger support system, close alliances, a broadened outlook, and the appreciation of everyone involved.
Step-parenting is no easy task, I’ve seen friends struggle with the role, and being the step-child isn’t a piece of cake either. Too often both sides are so lost in their own needs, that they can’t see the bigger picture: Both new step-parents are, of course, focused on their new relationship and romance. But the children are still hurting from the recent breakup. They need special attention, especially from their original parent, and perhaps even professional guidance to help them through this confusing and shifting period.
But I wish there were another way we could look at that prefix “step” that carries such loaded meaning in families. After all, the new “brother” or “sister” is really only a step away from being a full-fledged sibling or parent, and shouldn’t be treated as the enemy.
In my own life as an older teen, I learned the benefit of meeting three new “siblings,” first as acquaintances, and gradually each as good, caring friends. Lucky us that we all were mature enough, in time, to accept each other as family. Now my own child is fortunate to have three sets of grandparents, extra aunts and uncles, and step-first cousins to add to his family. Too young to understand the concept, he accepts everyone at face value — they are his family and they love him. What more could a child wish for than more people to love and play with him?
It took time, but now we are one big happy loving family. It’s something I would wish for all the “steps” out there, and end the bad rap to what has become a common relationship in our society.