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Finding a Home for Your Stepfamily

You've got a brand new family configuration, and you're starting a brand new life. Almost everybody says, and I agree, that it's best if you can start all this freshness in a new, neutral place. When you all move to a new place, you'll have these advantages:

  • You all have the excitement of creating a new life together.
  • You can look for a home with the correct physical requirements for your larger family.
Don't Be Wicked

Don't just write off a child's distress at moving. The loss of a home can feel devastating. Consider the child's temperament and developmental situation. Listening to children's real needs is not just “catering to their whims.”

Disadvantages of Simply Combining

Moving somewhere new isn't always possible, or perhaps one person has a dream house with enough room for everybody. It seems so easy that all the new step has to do is pack the bags and come on over.

Watch out! A lot of people have tried just this, and a lot have found it to be disastrous. Inevitably, the newcomer feels like an intruder, a visitor, as though he's trying to fill another person's shoes.

When one family joins another family in its old homestead, the issues are different for each set of kids, both the movers, and the moved-in-ons. The ones who are moving in (the movers) have a whole new environment to get used to. They may feel “new-kid-on-the-block-itus,” that horrible sense that they know less and matter less than the kids who have seniority.

Many of these issues can be avoided by having everybody move, finding a new house or apartment that fits everybody's needs.

I Kid You Not!

As strange as it may seem at first, perhaps your best option is to have the child stay in his house and have the adults move in and out. Jimmy keeps his house, room, neighborhood, and school. Mom lives with Jimmy for a month, and then she moves out and Dad moves in for a month. Yes, it's more complicated when it's Mom and her Love, and Dad and his Honey—and it probably won't work if Love or Honey has kids, too. But it's something to consider, especially if the child is having a hard time adjusting to changes.

Uneven Finances

When stepfamilies begin discussing living situations, money issues often come up, especially when couples who have uneven financial situations come together as a family. Perhaps she's been used to a middle-class house in the suburbs with a pool and a large mortgage, and he's fresh from a small urban rent-controlled apartment downtown. How much rent or mortgage can they afford? How much do they want to afford?

This couple could try to find a place where they each can afford half of the housing costs, or they could approach it differently. Each could figure out how much they can contribute individually, pool the money, and decide what they can afford for that amount. As long as everybody is happy, it doesn't need to be 50/50. Keep the lines of communication open to prevent resentments from building up.

When Not to Move

There are times in each child's life where a big change, such as moving to another community, can be devastating. Sometimes it's a little child who needs the security of a familiar home and school. It might be a teenager who wants to finish high school with friends. You may want to reconsider your plans. Perhaps when you really think about it, the child and his parent should stay put, and the stepparent (given she's got no kids) should move in. Hey, you can always try it for a while. Moving vans are for rent any day of the week.

Post-Move Letdown Syndrome

A new place won't fix everything. Moving is traumatic and expensive, and when everybody has to move, everybody is traumatized. Yes, the new house has fresh clean paint, but you are the same old, cracked people. After the movers are gone, you may find yourselves standing around and looking at each other thinking, “Now what?” Post-Move Letdown Syndrome (PMSL) is common. Hang in there and try to enjoy setting up your new household. This stage, too, shall pass.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Stepparenting © 1998 by Ericka Lutz. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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