How to Deal with Sibling Rivalry in Stepfamilies

Parents often fail to predict the effects of stepsibling rivalry. This can hamper domestic and personal peace of parents to a great extent. My article gives you some useful ideas to handle sibling rivalry in stepfamilies.
Creation of stepfamilies might sound very common to most parents. But it has a deep-rooted impact on minds of all those children who get dragged into the whole system. A common effect of trying to bring two families together is stepsibling rivalry. Rewinding back to the 1970s hit sitcom 'The Brady Bunch', it famously depicted the union of two families with six stepsiblings. The show depicted routine fights and scenes of rivalry and misunderstandings coming up between the siblings and the screen parents had to be on their toes to show their very best parenting skills. Back in your home, you may realize that handling stepsibling rivalry can be very painful and testing. Here is a brief insight into stepsibling rivalry and ways to handle the situation.

Stepsibling Rivalry and Child Psychology

With one out of every two marriages turning into a divorce, remarriages are not uncommon. If you and your new partner happen to have children from your previous marriages, then it is quite common for the two families to unite and stay together as one whole family. Due to some prominent effects of child psychology, you are quite likely to face some rough phases of stepsibling rivalry which in turn are likely to have an effect on your blissful new married life. So what are the effects on minds of your children in these cases?

From a child's point of view, one of the most profound issue is accepting a new person as a stepparent in his life. Close on heals comes the problem of accepting a new set of children as his siblings. At times, the initial days of your marriage might seem smooth due to novelty of the whole situation. However, once routine life sets in, certain issues as sharing parents, sharing of home space, sharing of cars, sharing toys, alteration of home rules, alteration in parenting strategies take a toll on the child's mind, leading to an outburst in the form of a stepsibling rivalry. Many a time, the transition is smoother for children who continue to stay in their very home. However, the situation is tough for children of the family who leave their own home behind and move in. On the other hand, studies show that older children who are likely to move out of the family home for education or other reasons, are more likely to accept a stepsiblings and parental remarriage. This is so, because most of them want their parents to have good companions and families in their own absence.

So How to Handle Stepsibling Rivalry?
  • The best way to handle a stepsibling rivalry is to let both the sets of children get acquainted with each other's nature. They should be given full freedom to find an appropriate solution to problems faced by them during their interaction. Parents may however, keep a keen eye for display of negative and destructive behavior by any of the children.
  • It is quite possible that both sets of children were brought up using totally different parenting techniques. There is also a possibility of difference in rules followed by both families before they were united. However, it is suggested that parents should sit and decide a new set of acceptable rules to be followed by every member of the family. If possible, such rules should be made in presence of all the children.
  • At times, parents have a tendency to react and give judgments in favor of their own children. This might be done on purpose or subconsciously. Parents are therefore advised to follow a fair game of parenting with all the children. At times, a child might resent the presence of a step-parent in his family and start making false accusations of unfair treatment given to him. This behavior has to be taken very seriously. The child should be assured by both the parents about fair treatment to all. It is very important for step-parents to give similar punishments to children who make similar mistakes.
  • It is suggested that, if parents follow a practice of distribution of household work amongst children, then the same should be discussed clearly at the initial stages itself. Household chores should be allotted and rotated amongst children to give a fair chance to everyone.
  • Young children need time to cope up with changes in their life and environment. They tend to crave for comfort and attention of their own parents. Since children might be possessive about their parents, they find it very difficult to share parental love with a new family. It is therefore advisable that, parents take out special time for their own children once in a while.
  • Do not expect all the children to adjust to the new life at the same speed. One child might accept the condition faster while another child might brood over the changes for a few more days. Give ample opportunities to all children to approach you with any doubts they have. Be friendly and open. You may plan some family activities like a weekend trip or a Sunday lunch to harmonize the relationship between everyone.
Parenting is a full-time job and it can be excelled with lots of tact and unbiased judgment. But it works best when there is a lot of love, attention and clear communication. Harmonizing life and getting rid of rivalry in stepsiblings can be achieved by joint efforts from children as well as parents. And who knows, before long the two families may get beautifully woven into one whole family.