Helping your children accept their step siblings

Feb 26, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. ET

For many children, big changes often mean big adjustments. Blending two families into one is definitely a big change, but with preparation and effort, it can be done in a more harmonious way. Plus, this extra effort in the beginning will pay off in the long run.

Happy blended family


First and foremost, talk about the changes that are coming! As adults, we rarely like to be surprised by big life changes. Children are not all that different. Based on your children's ages, decide how far in advance it is appropriate to break the news that they are going to have new sisters and brothers and begin talking about it regularly. Obviously a 3-year-old needs less notice than a 10-year-old, and not all children are alike, so use your judgment to determine how much time your children need to get used to the idea of having new siblings. Knowing what is coming might really help your children accept their new siblings. Be open, casual and let your children know that they can talk to you about any concerns or ask you any questions they might have as they prepare for their new lives.


Blending two families together ultimately means that each set of children will have new rules to abide by. Texas mom of two Nicki Bradley married her husband who already had three children. She firmly believes it is important to sit down with your soon-to-be spouse without the children present and each make a list of rules. Then determine what rules you are willing to compromise and which rules are very important to you.

When the two of you have worked out the details and agree on a firm set of house policies, explain them to all of the children. Keep the lines of communication and discussion open, but make sure that your children all know the rules. Kids are more likely to feel resentment and bicker when they perceive one child being treated differently – or better than – the rest.


Choose a night each week or each month to discuss how things are progressing with the new family. This is a good time to have adult-led discussions about how things are going, how each child feels and how the parents perceive the relationships among the children. Nobody likes to have change forced upon them! Giving children a measure of control over their feelings and the new situation will likely help them to accept their new siblings. If all members of the family are allowed to talk about their feelings as they work through them, they will begin to feel more in touch with their new siblings.


You are a new family now and you might want to do everything together as a family, but remember that you children have gone through a major change. While you should obviously engage in regular group activities just like any other family, it's important to set aside some one-on-one time with your biological children each month. When families blend together, children find that they now have to share their parent with their new step siblings. One-on-one time can minimize feelings of resentment between new siblings, which will help them accept each other more.


As Nicki says, "Expect growing pains! Even the happiest blended families will face resentment, confusion, anger and jealousy." Always remember that your children are just that – children. They cannot be expected to accept their new step siblings overnight. However, with time and effort, it is entirely possible for your children to accept their new step siblings, and vice versa.

If things are not going smoothly, despite your best efforts, consider consulting outside professional help. Your main goal is for your children to have a good relationship with their new siblings. Discussing issues with a neutral third party can often resolve conflicts and restore peace more quickly than trying to do it on your own. Do not be afraid to ask for help!