About blended families and stepfamilies
Blended families and stepfamilies come in many shapes and sizes.
For example, you and your partner might both have children from a previous relationship, or one of you might be new to parenting. Your children might be of similar or very different ages. You might also have a child together.
Also, where children live varies across families. Some children might live with you some of the time, others might live with you most or all of the time, and others might visit only occasionally.
Children in blended families might have various arrangements too. For example, a teenage child might be mostly with one parent, while their younger sibling might be mostly with the other parent.
How blended families and stepfamilies describe themselves
Many blended families and stepfamilies prefer just to call themselves ‘families’.
These families might call all children brothers and sisters, rather than half-siblings or stepsiblings. They might use terms like blended family, stepfamily, stepmother, stepfather or stepchild when they need to explain their situation – for example, to schools.
Other families use terms like stepfamily or blended family because that feels right for them. And some families use terms like new family, bonus family or bonus mum or dad, extra family or extra mum or dad, and so on.
How the Australian Government describes blended families and stepfamilies
The Australian Government uses official definitions of family arrangements. This is important for gathering statistics and surveying trends in Australian households and families.
A stepfamily is ‘a couple family containing one or more children, at least one of whom is the stepchild of one of the partners, and none of whom is the natural or adopted child of both members of the couple’.
A blended family is ‘a couple family containing 2 or more children, of whom at least one is the natural or adopted child of both members of the couple, and at least one is the stepchild of either partner in the couple’.
What you choose to call your family is up to you. On raisingchildren.net.au, we try to include all family arrangements by using a mix of terms.
Benefits of blended families and stepfamilies
There are many great things about being in a new family. For example:
- Blended families or stepfamilies can be fun. There are more people around who bring different personalities and new interests and perspectives.
- A new extended family can give you and your child more people to connect with. For example, new grandparents can add to children’s lives and help them feel even more loved.
- Extra adults and grandparents can be a great source of additional support for parents and children.
- Children in a blended family often learn to relate to a wider range of people, so they might be more flexible and tolerant.
Challenges of blended families and stepfamilies
Like all families, blended families and stepfamilies have challenges.
It can also take time to establish your blended family’s boundaries and rules. This can be because the families coming together have different family rules and because everyone is still getting to know each other.
As an adult, when you first repartner, your relationship with your child’s other parent can go through a tricky time because they might be feeling angry, insecure, upset or worried about the change. You might need to adjust your co-parenting agreement to fit with your new family arrangements.