Step sibling rivalry can raise blended family tension
When step siblings in a blended family do not get along, step parents can expect an emotional time of it. Common sibling rivalry can be an ordeal for parents under any circumstances, but no match for the drama of step sibling, or half sibling, rivalry! Merging families with kids, especially before they get to know each other very well, can raise tension to near unbearable levels, affecting the entire blended family. If step siblings in your step family have a difficult time getting along, perhaps these tips can help.
Get help in your step family
Emotions between battling step siblings can be volatile and complicated, upsetting not just the children but the entire household. Bickering can sometimes escalate to full-on fights that approach levels of physical or emotional pain. You may find it helps to reach out to friends who have been through similar step family struggles. Also, you might seek advice from books and blended and step family websites, or ask professional counselors for help in navigating the step sibling minefield. Neither the children nor you need to suffer through ongoing explosive and unreasonable conflicts, especially when there is help available.
Proactive blended families are healthier
To preempt relationship problems in your blended family, it is a good idea to hold a family meeting as soon as possible in the two-family merge. Establishing your goals, expectations and house rules right from the beginning is important to effective blended family management; the very act of holding a proper family meeting, where everyone gets a chance to be heard, can help establish your resolve for meaningful communication and respectful behavior. Introduce house rules at the meeting, discuss consequences for failing to comply, and then follow through.
Give the kids space to work it out
Sometimes the best way to deal with rivalry between step siblings is to let them work it out by themselves. You should of course step in if abusive language or physical violence is used, but otherwise try not to get sucked into the arguments. The more often you step in, the less likely kids are to learn how to deal with issues on their own. It is important that you are not seen as taking sides.
Zero tolerance for invasive behavior
It is very important that step siblings be allowed to have, and protect, their own possessions and personal space. While you may not be able to arrange separate rooms for step siblings, be sure they can retain a sense of individuality. It is not a good idea to make step siblings share everything. They are already sharing a parent!
Remember that battling step siblings act out of pain. It is natural for kids to feel anxious over drastic life changes, and more so if they suddenly feel in competition with a new sibling for the attention or approval their parent. It can sometimes take up to three years for everyone to fully settle in.
Struggles between step siblings, like struggles between step parents and step kids, are all part and parcel of the blended family pattern. These struggles do not mean your blended family is doomed, or that you are somehow failing as parents. Just keep looking for things that bring you all together, and take care to spend quiet alone time with each child on a daily basis. Do what you do best. Be the adult, and let your kids know you are there for them, no matter what. If you need more help than this article can offer, check out the coaching at The Blended and Step Family Resource Center, or look at many of the other resources available there.