By Shari Levine
It's totally normal to freak out when your parents split. The changes that take place in a family before, during and after a divorce can make your head spin. You may feel angry, sad, scared, and unsure about what will happen. And if one or both of your parents decide to get re-married, those intense feelings can come back all over again.
When one (or both) of your parents gets remarried you'll have a stepfamily, which is also called a blended family because people from two houses get mixed, shaken and stirred up into one.
Being in the stepfamily blender is hard for a lot of girls - maybe you know first hand how it feels or maybe you have a friend who has been through it. The experts say that it can take more than two years for stepfamilies to get into a groove and settle into life together.
Unfortunately, we can't say that the changes are going to be easy or that you will immediately love your stepfamily but we do want to help get you through it. So, we picked four things that girls say are the hardest to deal with and give some tips to help you cope.
Everything is changing and I miss my old family. You may remember spending happy weekends with both of your parents. Maybe you would go out for breakfast as a family or watch a movie together on Saturday nights. Now that you have a stepfamily, you are adjusting to new people - and sharing your parents with new stepbrothers and sisters.
It's perfectly normal to miss your old life and to wish things could be the same as they were. All the feelings inside you can be intense. It's SO important to talk about those feelings with someone who understands what you are going through. If you keep them bottled up inside, there's a good change that they'll squeak out in one way or another.
So, find a person who you can trust. Maybe it is one of your parents or your teacher or a coach - and talk! Get advice about how to deal with the things that are not going well. If you can't find a close person to talk to, find a stepfamily support group where people meet, talk about feelings, and help each other. Or you can also find online chat groups or bulletin boards for kids going through the same things. Remember that building a new blended family is going to take time and good communication.
The Stepfamily Network website has a great forum for kids that offers support and information. They also have a listing of where to find support groups in many States.
How can I deal with stepsiblings?
When you stepfamily moves in together you may be wondering... do I have to be friends with my new stepbrothers and sisters? If she is my age, do I have to hang out with her at school? What if I have a crush on my new stepbrother? What if my stepsister keeps taking my stuff? Do I have to babysit for my baby stepbrother?
These questions are all normal and need answers. Your biological parent can help you to understand how the new stepfamily will work. Ask your parents to tell you what they expect and then find a way to make it work for you. Make sure that you let your parents know what you think is reasonable and what you don't. For example, if they want you to babysit for a younger stepsibling, maybe you need to get paid for your time like a real babysitter would.
A lot of parents have family meetings once a week to talk about the rules of the household. This can help all the people in your stepfamily to understand the rules, make plans, and talk about how things are going. If you think this is a good idea, ask your biological parent to start scheduling weekly meetings.
Holidays are so weird.
The holidays can be the most challenging times for stepfamilies. You miss your old family's traditions and it feels funny to be with your new family because they have different and strange celebrations. Maybe you also have to split your time between Mom and Dad's house for the holidays which makes it even harder.
One way to deal with this is to PLAN ahead! Start talking to your parents way before the holidays to figure out where you're going to be and when. Talk about how you will celebrate and make sure they know what traditions are important to you. Maybe you love to play football on Thanksgiving Day or you want to go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Whatever it is, you need to tell them so that they can make plans in advance. This helps everybody to know what they can expect when the actual day comes.
My parents treat me differently
Just as you are going through a lot of changes with your family, so are your parents. It may help for you to understand what they are feeling too. Parents who are getting remarried have a lot of things to deal with too. They are happy to be with someone who they love but they may worry about how the new stepfamily will work together. Your biological parent wants you to like your new stepmother or stepfather and they want you to get along with your new stepbrothers and sisters. They may also worry about you while you're at the other biological parent's house. And, don't forget that they're still figuring out how to be a stepmother or stepfather as well.
With all that is going on, it can feel like your parents are not paying enough attention to you. It's natural to be mad at your parents during times like this. Try to be patient and understand that your parents love you and are doing their best for you. Make sure that they know how you feel. If you are not comfortable talking to them you can write a letter or email. Find a way that you can communicate because if they don't know what is wrong then they cannot help you.
You can find more information on a website called Its My Life.
So, for all you girls going through the blender, remember to have patience, communicate and take care of yourself.