I’ve done a great deal of reading about stepfamilies. I’ve probably read 20-30 books on the subject. Most of them say the same thing – it takes anywhere from four to seven years for blended family to feel like a real family.
It is no surprise when you think about the fact that many sources and studies claim that the divorce rate is higher in second and subsequent marriages than it is in first marriages. Compound that with the stats that indicate divorce is yet higher when there are stepchildren involved and the data can be daunting. So, in my mind, somehow, I felt that if we could just make it to the four-year mark, we would have it made. I recognize that nothing magical happens at four years, but for some reason I felt it was a milestone.
Well, the other night at dinner, I announced that we were celebrating because it marked four years since we all moved in together. The kids asked why that mattered, and I shared with them my nugget that most experts say it takes four to seven years for a blended family to feel like a real family. In classic large family style, each child had a very different reaction.
Landon (age 12) noted that the studies said “four to SEVEN” and pointed out that we should take that to mean that it could be three more years until it felt normal. Justin (age 11) said he felt like we were a real family after about the first year. Kurstin (age 17) pointed out that the books said it takes four to seven years for MOST families to feel like a real family and that some blended families probably never do. Dear, sweet Addison (age 10) said she felt like a real family from the very first day. Lastly, Taylor (age 15) brought it all home with, “What is a REAL family anyway?!”
I am choosing to take a few things away from that interaction. 1) For at least a couple of the kids what we have is no different or at least no less than what they had. They are happy and comfortable with our big, blended family. 2) There really is no such thing as a “real family” in that way. When I grew up, the norm may have been a mom, a dad and two kids, but that certainly is not the case anymore. Families take on all kinds of shapes. I’m glad our kids can recognize that. 3) Finally, there is a reason all of those books list a range. Not all families solidify at the same rate. In fact, it is even true that not all members of an individual family adjust at the same rate. So, four years may not be a magic number, but we also do not have to be a statistic. We will keep working at it day after day and whether it takes four years or seven or ten, one day all of the kids will realize that this is what family feels like.