PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Stepfamilies: Lines of Communications

When your stepfamily first comes together, chances are that you'll have some serious discussions with one another. Many families sit down for one or two "big talks" about how things will work, then hope everything runs smoothly from there.

But as you know, life isn't the same from month to month, week to week, or even day to day. There are always new problems and issues that come up, and a family has to adapt itself to them.

Many stepfamilies have success with regular Family Meetings, where both adults and kids can:

  • Figure out how the household will be run.
  • Talk about problems and annoyances.
  • Mediate fights and arguments.
  • Plan family activities and schedules.
  • Have a chance to bond and get closer.

It helps to write down things you want to talk about ahead of time, or tell them to a parent before the meeting so he or she will know what's important to you.

It could be that when your stepfamily first comes together, you have a Family Meeting every week. Then, as things settle down, the meetings go down to once a month or stop completely. If it's been a while since the last powwow but you notice that things are getting rocky again, maybe it's time to suggest one.

So, what if you have problems or questions, or things just aren't running as smoothly as you like, but you can't get the family's adults to take them seriously?


However, if you start off by saying "You did this," or "You did that," that's accusing, not communicating. Instead, try something called an "I-Message." An I-Message has three parts:

    1) I feel ___________________
        Be specific about your emotions. You can use more
        than one word.

    2) When you ________________
        Give details of how your friend has acted or what he
        or she has done.

    3) Because ________________
        This is the hard one: the "why."

    Here's an example of an I-Message: "I feel hurt and angry when you spend more time with my stepsister, because it makes me think you don't like me as much.

Remind yourself that the first couple of years in a stepfamily can be a crazy period. Things will change back and forth and up and down, and you'll all be busy trying to sort it out. This is NORMAL and HEALTHY! Be patient, but also be strong and assertive when you need to be.

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