by Kelly Kirkendoll Shafer
Where you live and your specific living arrangements can have a significant impact on your stepfamily. Ideally, you’d move into a home that is new to all. It puts everyone at the same starting point and prevents family members from feeling invaded or like an outsider moving in.
But, in most cases, moving into a new home is not feasible or practical. It may require children to leave established friendships, change schools, may be too expensive or may not be wise for other reasons. Weigh the pros and cons with your spouse, and make the best decision you can for all involved.
When moving into an already established home, try these suggested steps to make things run smoother:
ü Be sensitive to the incoming family members’ feelings – they are likely to feel like outsiders or even unwanted guests at times.
ü Be sensitive to the existing household members – they are likely to feel invaded, especially if changes happen too quickly or they must now share their room.
ü Be willing to compromise regarding furniture and other household items – use items from both homes and ask the children for input on which possessions are most important to them.
ü Have a family garage sale to sell off excess items (get the kids involved selling sodas and/or lemonade – and let them keep the money!).
ü Tackle a redecorating project together to make the home yours as a family.
ü Go slow – too many changes in the home, too quickly can be overwhelming to the children (and adult) already living there.
ü Step into the incoming members’ shoes – what would make them feel more like it’s their home too?
Soon after we married, David and his children moved into a home I already owned. I quickly became resentful as my stepchildren threw their backpacks and shoes all over the floor each time they entered the house, thinking – they’re treating my house like a hotel they can trash then leave. After an enlightening conversation with their mom and a hard look at our home, I realized two things - 1) they did the same thing at their mom’s house and 2) our walls were covered with photos of my children, but none of my stepchildren. I adjusted my attitude, and we adjusted our home to better include all the kids.
© 2004 Kelly Kirkendoll Shafer. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the author.
Kelly Kirkendoll Shafer is a mother of two/stepmother of three (ages 7-15), freelance writer, speaker and the author of "29 Ways to Make Your Stepfamily Work." She is a regular contributor to Your Stepfamily magazine, the official publication of the Stepfamily Association of America, and she publishes the Stepfamilies Work! website and free monthly newsletter. Contact Kelly here firstname.lastname@example.org.