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Living With a Stepparent

It's a reality today that about half of all marriages end in divorce and three out of every four people who get divorced will marry again. This means millions of new stepfamilies are formed each year. Sometimes the transition is pretty easy. But many times, families have trouble adjusting to the new living arrangements, rules, and relationships.

Dealing with stepparents and the changes that come with them can be complex, and sometimes frustrating. But taking time to build a good relationship with your stepparent can help you and your family.

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What Is a Stepfamily?

A stepfamily is a family in which one parent has children that are not related to the other parent. Sometimes, both parents have their own children from a previous marriage or relationship. Other times, only one parent already has children.

Stepfamilies can be complex because the children may live with one biological parent and visit their other biological parent, or live with each biological parent part of the time.

Adjusting to a New Stepparent

Building any relationship takes time and effort. Don't expect to be best friends with your new stepparent overnight. If you and your stepparent have similar interests, and personalities that work well together, it may take less time to adjust. But relationships with stepparents can be complicated because they may be "part friend" and "part parent."

Getting used to the balance between the friend and parent parts can take awhile. Don't be disappointed if it the adjustment takes longer than you thought. Over time, you and your stepparent will both adjust to the new situation.

Does a Stepparent Replace My Biological Parent?

Your stepparent and biological parent are different people. And, the relationship with your stepparent will develop at a different point in your life than your relationship with your biological parent.

Because of these differences, your relationship with your stepparent will not be the same as that with your biological parent, even though their parenting roles may be similar.

What if My New Stepparent Has Different Rules?

Adjusting to new rules is a common problem for stepfamilies. Because your stepparent brings different experiences to the family than your biological parent, he or she may have different opinions and expectations. Your stepparent may expect you to be more responsible, have good table manners, be louder, be quieter, or many other things.

While you may think some of these new rules are worse than the ones you're used to, most likely they are just new to you. Your stepparent may even have some rules that you like better.

If you don't like a particular rule, it probably won't help to tell your stepparent that it is a bad rule. It may be helpful to tell your stepparent that the rule is different, and you are having trouble adjusting to it. Try to work out rules on which both you and your stepparent can agree.

Remember, throughout your life, you will have to adjust to new rules from time to time. This will happen when you live in a college or military dormitory, with roommates or a spouse. Learning to adjust to others and their expectations and to negotiate with them is an important part of becoming an adult.

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