PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Stepfamilies: Stepsibs & Half-Sibs

The bad news? Now you have to share your house, and parent, with some kid you've only met twice. The good news? You've always wanted a brother! Stepsiblings, whether you live with them or not, have their pros and cons.

From strangers to sibs
Just like with getting to know your new stepparent, it's important to take the time to build a relationship with a stepsibling. This may be awkward at first, so concentrate on doing things together as a family to break the ice. For instance:

  • Choose one night a week where everyone cooks together.
  • Plan trips to amusement parks, the movies, parks, etc.
  • Have a regular Game Night, and make sure you switch up the teams often.
  • Rent movies for a Family Flick night.
  • Play organized games outdoors together.
  • Attend sports events or concerts together.

When you're comfortable, try to suggest ways you and a stepsibling can get together one-on-one. Something as simple as a shopping trip, a bike ride around the neighborhood, or a visit to an arcade is a great first step.

Age differences
With a stepsibling, you may have a new bro or sis who's much older than you, much younger than you, or close to the same age. These can cause different types of problems.

With a stepsib who's the same age:

  • Your parents might assume that you'll become instant best buds and put too much pressure on you both to get close.

  • You might be in the same school, but have very different social situations. Maybe you're really popular with lots of friends, but your stepbrother is more of a loner. Awkward!

  • What if - GASP! - you get a crush on your stepbrother or stepsister?

  • Your parents might think it's okay to leave you both home alone and make the slightly older sib "in charge." This is fine for biological siblings, but with stepsibs, it can cause lots of problems. Ask your parents to hire an outside sitter instead of putting you in a weird situation.

With a sib who's much younger:

  • Your parents might make you the automatic babysitter. If this happens, ask them whether this is one of the chores you're expected to do as a member of your household. If the answer is no, ask them to consider "hiring" you the same way they would hire an outside sitter and pay you hourly for your time.

  • Offer to help out by learning emergency numbers and first aid. Even if you're not in a babysitting situation, these can come in handy around a much younger sib. If there's a baby in the house, ask someone to show you the basics like how to change a diaper, burp a baby, hold the bottle, etc.

With a sib who's much older:

  • He might think he can discipline you or automatically have power over the remote control.

  • She might be called on to babysit but not be up to the task.

  • He might feel that since the age difference is big, there's no way you can have a relationship, and not even try.

Remember that in the first year or more of a new stepfamily living together, everyone is trying to figure out what his or her new position is. Maybe you've gone from being an only child to a middle child, or the oldest to the youngest! Your "power" and responsibilities have changed, but so has everybody else's.

Half the genes but all the love
People use the words "half-brother" and "half-sister" when referring to siblings who have one biological parent in common instead of two. The "half" part is really just a technical term; it doesn't mean your half-sister is not a "real" sister or that she's somehow less loved, wanted, smart, or normal than you. Here are some questions you might have about a half-sibling, and questions he or she might have about you:

  • Why is my last name different from my half-sib's last name?

  • Is it okay to call my half-sib "brother" or "sister"?

  • Is it fair that my half-sib gets to live with both of his biological parents, and I don't?

  • How can I stop feeling jealous that my half-sib gets to live with my mom or dad full time, and I don't?

  • Why do some of my half-sib's biological relatives treat her differently than me?

  • What if my half-sibling uses the "half" part against me in a fight, saying I don't deserve the same things as a biological sibling would?

  • How do the parents that we don't share fit into all this?

Remember that all sibling relationships change over time as kids grow and situations shift. Talk to a parent whenever these types of questions come up, and work together to understand how special half-sib issues might be contributing to your feelings.

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