AUSTRALIAN STEPFAMILIES FACE THEIR MOST CHALLENGING TIME
Helping your Stepfamily over the Holidays – ‘The Survival Guide’
Contemporary Australian families look significantly different to what they did a generation ago. There are new and old parents and partners and siblings, not to mention different cultures, religions and traditions –step and blended families face unique difficulties over this so called “most wonderful time of the year”.
“More than a million of us are in stepfamilies, and they can be a truly wonderful yet sometimes challenging experience,” notes Stepfamilies Australia Executive, Phoebe Wallish.
Peak organisation STEPFAMILIES AUSTRALIA has released a ‘Stepfamily Survival Guide for the Holidays’, as well as offering a useful free app to help the 1 in 5 of us in step/blended families to harness positive communication.
GUIDE TO STEPPING UP TO A LESS STRESSFUL HOLIDAY SEASON:
Be realistic with your expectations – It is the season of giving – so ‘give’ a little, accept that it not always possible to please everyone, including yourself! You may have to divide up your holidays or ‘your time’ with the children. It doesn’t all have to be on the one day, suggest options and be open to later in the week or even in the New Year, it’s the getting together not the day that counts.
Spending time rather than money – Presents are good but children do want happy, fun and calm times with their parents and their families – these are the memories that they store and recall as adults. Make sure the experiences and memories are good by making the most of the time together.
Honour the ‘old’ and Create the ‘new’. Ensure you keep some traditions from before you blended, as kids hold onto these, but also start to create new traditions as stepfamily. It is as a good opportunity to involved everyone to ‘cherry-pick’ the best of your combined and collective family histories and experiences.
Offer time, support and understanding – particularly for stepchildren and stepsiblings, acknowledging at first that they have no shared family histories. Don’t pressure kids to feel or act in certain ways. Make the time special for all whatever it might look like.
Remember perfect families don’t exist – Despite manufactured, media images of perfect families – no family (stepfamily or otherwise) is immune from holiday conflicts, divided loyalties, competition. Try to be in the moment and enjoy what you can – All things pass – including the good and the bad – knowing this can help.
Long-distance parenting can be hard, particularly at this time of year – Make sure you plan ahead and have something positive for yourself to do on the day. You may not be able to be there with your children but keep communication open and positive – Kids these days are happy to use phones, texts or email. It is not the same, but it is the next best thing and you will have something to share when you next see one another.
Using our FREE family-based app such as MyMob allows family members to communicate – share photos, messages and information like you might do across the family table, but in a safe, online application.
If it is already seeming to be all too hard reach out and get some advice early – it can be the most positive thing you can do for yourself and your children. We also have an interactive Facebook page and can help connect you with others in the same situation for support! Or if you need activities to help engage the kids try our boredom busters for primary school aged kids.
76% of homeless teens come from step and sole parent families (Chamberlain and MacKenzie)
1 in 5 children and young people will grow up in stepfamilies (survey of family research by Pryor and Rodgers, Children in Changing Families: Life after parental separation, Blackwell, 2001)
One in 3 marriages is now a remarriage and half of stepfamily couples do not marry (ABS)
Family breakdown costs the community $3 billion per year (Commonwealth Parliament Committee report 1998)
Stepfamily breakdown rates are twice those of first families – (AIFS research)
If parents are not coping with relationship breakdown then they don’t parent well, leading to issues for their children including: higher incidence of mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, early teen pregnancy and school leaving, homelessness, antisocial behaviour, crime and suicide