Step families and graduation time

Graduation season will be here soon, and for some blended families, it is a time rife with hurt feelings. Traditional family celebrations can be a source of stress and anxiety for many step family members, and these types of family gatherings can make feelings of being unaccepted, disliked, or left out become even more pronounced. When you are struggling to maintain a fragile relationship with a step child, or trying to nurture new extended step family relationships, events like a school graduation can be difficult to navigate. That is, if you manage to get invited at all!

Celebrating the graduation of a blended family member

As a step parent in your extended blended family, you may worry about whether you and your biological children will receive an invitation to attend the commencement of an extended step family graduate.  Even if you do get invited, there are still important questions to ask yourself. Will my attendance cause discomfort to my step children or spouse?  How should I act around my step parent counter-part? Will I have anyone to talk to at the celebration?  Every blended family member reacts to the blended family scenario in a different way, making it difficult for some to find their place at family events such as graduations, weddings, family reunions and even family dinners. This is why effective communication is so important to a blended family.

How to get invited to the graduation

How do you get invited? Sometimes you have to ask. Do not assume simply because you have not yet received an invitation that your graduate, or their bio parent, does not want you to come.  It is quite possible that your step family graduate either forgot an invitation for someone as obvious as you, or has just waited until the last minute to do anything at all concerning graduation. Many, perhaps most, high school graduates scurry to send hurried texts or telephone family members the week before. College grads are a little more organized, but not by much. Step family members waiting for an invitation to an upcoming commencement should probably ask for one.

What to do at the graduation ceremony

Be polite. Your graduate will probably be seated on the floor with other graduates; you stand a good chance of being seated with biological family members. Make every effort to make polite conversation and generally get along with bio family members. Be deferential when it comes time to hug and kiss the graduate, standing back while you wait for your turn. Step family members invited to a celebration dinner should reserve the best seats for biological family. Allow the graduate or a member of the bio family to upgrade your seating as they deem appropriate. Bring a modest and simple gift that does not upstage gifts from the bio-family. Be flexible and have a great time.

If you are not invited to the graduation

If you are not invited, even if you ask, try not to take it personally. Unless your personal relationship with the graduate is extremely tenuous, not being included might be for an innocent reason, such as there not being enough tickets to go around, or the demands of an emotional grandparent. It may not be about you at all. It helps to remember that graduation day is for and about the graduate, so every effort should be made to ensure a happy time for him or her. As with all step family functions, intra family relationships can be difficult to navigate. If your blended family has an especially close relationship with your step graduate, you may wish to throw your own party. Your relationship may be one in which sending a card is appropriate. Each step family member should analyze their relationship to determine which is appropriate.

Blended family relationships can be difficult in the best of times, and emotional mine fields whenever the entire extended blended family gets together. When you and the members of your blended family gather for graduations and other important milestones, bring along your best behavior, your good wishes, your flexibility, and your sense of humor – which is always helpful. If you need additional assistance, The Blended and Step Family Resource Center is here for you.