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Managing Step-families at Christmas can be challenging: Choosing Realistic Expectations

Step families and remarrying couples enjoy the many benefits of married life together, but they also face many challenges of raising children and balancing family ex-partner visits as well as communicating effectively and resolving the issues involved with running a household, parenting and managing finances.

Christmas can be a joyous time for many but it can also exacerbate these challenges for step families and remarrying couples that need to be managed carefully. It may be useful to work through the following myths with your couple or your partner. Read through these common myths, noticing if any of them resonate.

Myth 1: Because we love each other, the other family members will also love each other.

Reality: Love and/or good relationships may or may not happen between step-family members. It will likely take time for emotional bonds to develop; some will bond quickly, others slowly, and it is possible that some individuals may never bond.

Myth 2: Our children will feel as happy about this new family as we do.

Reality: The truth is children will at best be confused about the new marriage and at worst, they’ll resent it. Remarriage is a gain for adults and a challenge for children. Only after much time, when family stability is obtained, does the remarriage also become a gain for children. Be patient with them.

Myth 3: The step-parent(s) will quickly bond with the children and act like another parent.

Reality: Sometimes stepparents want so badly to be accepted they try to manage the children as a parent would. They may also try to show affection like a biological parent would. Children often need some space initially to build a relationship with the stepparent. It is often a good idea to let the child set the pace and follow their lead.

Myth 4: We’ll do marriage better this time around.

Reality: Those who have experienced a breakup or divorce often have learned tough lessons from the past.While a new marriage involves different people and different dynamics, it is not uncommon for individuals to slip into the same old patterns and routines (e.g., being avoidant during conflict). Be mindful not to repeat mistakes of the past.

Myth 5: We will be able to easily form a new family.

Reality: In most cases, children didn’t ask for this new family, they need time to develop a history and sense of family. Don’t push to create relationships. It is often better to have minimal expectations of how relationships will develop rather than grand expectations which may fail to materialise.


  1. Which of these myths have you been tempted to believe?
  2. How could having these unrealistic expectations set you up for frustration and disappointment?
  3. How are you going to balance/prioritise the challenges of a step-family while also nourishing your couple relationship?

The team at MAREAA wish all our members, friends and families and supporters, a happy, safe and enjoyable Christmas.

We thank you for your support in 2019 and we look forward to connecting and making 2020 a special year for marriage and relationship education across Australia.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event.

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