Five Keys To Stepfamily Success

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Remarriage and Stepfamily Success

Approximately half of all U.S. marriages are remarriages for one or both partners, and one third of all children in the United States will live in a stepfamily household before they reach adulthood. One of the main factors in the success of these remarriages is blending stepchildren and stepparents into a cohesive family unit, said Utah State University researcher Brian Higginbotham. The key to building a successful step family starts with building individual relationships.

"Rather than trying to instantly create one big happy family, new stepparents should focus on building individual relationships," said Higginbotham. "Before the family can bond as a whole, individuals must be bonded one-on-one."

Higginbotham, professor in Family, Consumer, and Human Development, said there are five keys steps to building a good relationship between the stepparent and child. "A successful blending of families is really an investment in the well-being of children," said Higginbotham.

The first key is to see what the child's interests are. For example, what are the child's hobbies? This will help the stepparent to spend time with the child engaging in activities that are of interest to them.

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The second key is to spend one-on-one time with the child, and if the child likes to play football or a certain sport, the stepparent can go to a game with the child.

The third key is engage in fun activities, for example, knowing what the child's interests are will help the stepparent and the child able to bond with one another by doing these activities that the child is interested in.

The fourth key is to work on individual relationships. "Each family member must bond individually with each other before they can gel as a group," said Higginbotham.

The fifth key is to leave a positive outcome. For example, don't try to force old traditions with the child, create new traditions by getting the child's input.

"Increasingly, remarriage is becoming a familiar and frequent phenomenon in our society," said Higginbotham. "It is important that we move beyond a negative conceptualization of stepfamilies and focus on the strengths and opportunities afforded to children and adults in this increasingly normative family formation."

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