In many stepfamilies, none of the children share both adults as their natural parents. But sometimes, parents and stepparents decide to add another family member, one that will then be a half-sibling to all of their existing children. Expanding a family always requires a bit of forethought, but in stepfamilies, the considerations may be even greater.
Avoiding Jealousy and Hurt Feelings
One of the biggest hurdles to adding a baby into a stepfamily is the worry that the other children may be jealous, feeling that the new baby will be more loved than the others. Parents understand that a baby merely expands their capacity for love, but children, who have little life experience, sometimes fear that a new sibling will divide their parent’s love, leaving them with less than they had before the baby’s arrival.
Parents and stepparents need to be prepared for a variety of emotional responses from their children when they announce that they are expecting. Kids may be thrilled, excited, worried, frightened, or even angry about the news, but no matter how they react, their feelings need to be acknowledged and respected. Encouraging honest communication is important, allowing children to express themselves and then taking steps to alleviate their fears or provide assurances as needed.
Stretching the Budget to Accommodate a Baby
New babies surely mean a revamping of the family’s budget, so finances must be considered when deciding whether or not to expand the family. Some are fortunate to have ample funds, but many growing families must find ways to stretch their budgets to accommodate the needs of a baby.
Unless they’ve saved the equipment from older children, new things must be purchased and as all parents know, even the basics can be pretty costly. Cots and buggies are just the beginning – new babies grow quickly and tend to need wardrobe additions every few months. With careful planning, though, most families can rework their finances to accommodate a baby’s needs while still meeting those of the remainder of the family.
Making Time for Everyone
In addition to finding money for a growing family, parents and stepparents are also likely to find themselves strapped for time once they add a new baby to the mix. Older children often need additional attention after a younger sibling is born, as they may feel temporarily displaced when they see their parents doting on the baby.
When possible, parents should set aside time to spend with each of their children, both before and after the arrival of the baby. Keeping the kids on as normal schedule as possible, especially if they are younger, will help them to be comfortable with the changes that are happening in their families.
Helping Children to Prepare for a Sibling
Most children enjoy being an older sibling, once they get used to the idea. Parents can help them to prepare by encouraging the kids to talk about their expectations and point out the great things about having a baby in the family.
It’s also important that parents anticipate a degree of behavioural backsliding from older kids after a baby is born into the family. Preschool aged kids, especially, can revert to infantile behaviour, sometimes using babyish language, refusing to use the potty, whining, throwing tantrums, or demanding constant attention. While such actions can be difficult for parents, they need to display an attitude of firm kindness, being patient with their children, but requiring that they behave in acceptable ways.
One Big, Happy Family
While parents certainly should consider all of the possible aspects of adding to their families, few can deny the joys that babies can bring. Parents, stepparents, and all of their children can come together to welcome a new baby into the family, bonding each member to one another even more deeply because of their shared connection to the new baby.
Hello, I’m a stepmom to a 5 yr old little boy. He doesn’t know his natural mom and I have been in his life since he was 15 months old. My husband feels a lot of guilt because he was born addicted to drugs and as a result was in foster care for his first 7 months. He lets him get away with back talking to me and just being really disrespectful, I have talked to him about this but his response is always “ he’s only 5”. I’m just at a loss because even though I’ve expressed how I feel, he brushes it off.
Sbecky19 - 30-Sep-20 @ 4:19 PM
I’m a mother of two handsome boys a 12yrs and 18month old. I was 17 when my oldest son lost his dad, I’m now 30.I have been with my husband for 6yrs. I feel like there is tension/ resentment between my 12yr old and his stepdad. My son doesn’t really talk to him causehe feels like hes stepping on egg shells and my husband doesn’t talk to him cause he has nothing to say. But when my husband has something to say to my son, it for him to clean, and when he does clean it’s not good enough, it doesn’t meet my husbands expectations. So then my son is outside/inside for hours on cleaning. I can’t say nothing to my husband on how I feel cause, I always get told I’m in the wrong.
BB90 - 24-Feb-20 @ 1:36 PM
I am a stepmother to a 6 year old little girl. I also have a four month old baby girl. Me and my partner are constantly arguing because he feels I treat the children differently and I feel that he always prioritises his daughter over our baby. We have her 50% of the time. I try my absolute hardest to make a huge effort with her so she doesn’t feel left out but feel like nothing I do is good enough. If I ever tell her off, he jumps straight to her defence. He frequently undermines what I say and it is now driving a huge wedge between us. I have tried voicing my feelings but we just end up in a huge argument. I feel like my only option is to leave him but the thought of not seeing my daughter everyday day scares me so much. I am completely at the end of my tether and don’t know what to do. Please help me.
Danni - 6-Nov-19 @ 11:37 PM
Leelee - Your Question:
I am a step parent to two girls, who are polite, respectful and I feel we have apreetty good relationship. We spend time together and they listen to me if I have to discipline them, which is an area myself and my partner have discussed as he is their farther. I have been with my partner nearly three years and we are engaged and have a 6 month old baby. But lately I am confused by my feelings towards my step children and my son, I have tried to talk to my partner but as he comes from a situation similar growing up he doesn't want his children feeling left out and I feel he doesn't understand me. My parents are still together so I have no idea on step parenting and until 6 months ago how to be a mum!! I feel I resent his children and the time he spends with them, he works a lot as I am maternity and I feel that if he takes time off work to go to a parents evening, why could he not make time for his child here. I feel lost and frustrated, and don't no what to do next
I am sorry you feel like this and your feelings are completely normal. Firstly, you have just had a new baby, and many new parents feel tired and emotional at these radical new changes to their life. Having a new baby can also make a mother feel isolated and alone. Therefore, if you take these factors into account then you may be able to begin to see why you feel this way. Of course your partner wants to see his children and spend time with them, he loves them. However, his time is obviously divided and this may be the cause of some of the problems especially if he works long hours and you just want him to come home to you. I'm sure these feelings will pass - your partner is trying to spread his love and that can be as emotionally difficult to him as it is to you as he has to try and negotiate making his other children feel as loved and as secure as they were before. If you feel it is getting too much, then there are forums on Mumsnet where you may be able to go for help and advice from step-parents who are suffering the same or similar issues. Remember you have gone through big changes, it'll take time to adjust.
BeingAStepParent - 7-Jun-16 @ 11:57 AM
I am a step parent to two girls, who are polite, respectful and I feel we have apreetty good relationship. We spend time together and they listen to me if I have to discipline them, which is an area myself and my partner have discussed as he is their farther. I have been with my partner nearly three years and we are engaged and have a 6 month old baby.
But lately I am confused by my feelings towards my step children and my son, I have tried to talk to my partner but as he comes from a situation similar growing up he doesn't want his children feeling left out and I feel he doesn't understand me. My parents are still together so I have no idea on step parenting and until 6 months ago how to be a mum!! I feel I resent his children and the time he spends with them, he works a lot as I am maternity and I feel that if he takes time off work to go to a parents evening, why could he not make time for his child here. I feel lost and frustrated, and don't no what to do next
Leelee - 6-Jun-16 @ 1:32 PM
It would be nice to see some more info on older children, such as 10year old, being an only child then what could possibly happen if they gained a half sibling.
My stepdaughter is incredibly close to her father, and is the only grandchild on both sides too!!! Where as my parents have 9 grandchildren, so far. I feel she could have a lot of mixed feelings once my partner and I are ready to have a baby?