I am a stepmom to a great 10yo girl. She's excited to have a brother or sister, but I'm looking for some tips on the transition. I'm only 6 weeks along, but wanted to start early. Any advice?
Welcoming a new baby
The only step-parent specific thing we did was request in writing to XH's parents that they not use language like HALF sister/brother or emphasize that the kids aren't real siblings in any way. But hopefully you don't have anyone in your life who is willing to stoop to manipulating the kids to try and gain footing the next time they take you to court! (My XH's parents think they should be able to dictate to me when/how often/for how long they see the kids, and basically want partial custody)
Things I've been doing with the kids are encouraging them to start answering the phone, or make a sandwich for lunch. We'll be adding a few chores to the list this summer... DS is cleaning the kitchen after dinner and DD will organize the mud room/ living room a few times a week (they'll be paid for chores, so they're excited about this) We're less than a block from school, so I've been letting them walk on their own for practice... I'm anticipating that it might be tough getting out of the house some mornings. I don't talk about these changes in terms of the baby coming, I make it about them getting older... things will be well established before the baby comes, and it'll make their and my life easier!
It's not step-family-specific, but we also thought ahead about any changes that might occur after the baby was born and started that transition well ahead of time so it wasn't associated with the new baby in case the change wasn't well-received. My kids are a lot closer in age, so that might be a little less of an issue for you.
We did make an extra effort to make sure my step-daughter was as involved in the baby preparation as she was interested in. For example, I made sure to schedule a couple midwife appointments at times she would be with us so she could be involved in hearing the baby's heartbeat, etc. For the most recent baby she even got to assist the midwife with a blood draw, which was pretty exciting for her :) Our midwives were great.
When my step-daughter was older, biology did come up at one point, as she knows she and her brother at mom's both came out of the same belly, but that wasn't true for her siblings here, and since the biology of fatherhood is a lot more abstract, she thought that her brother at mom's was somehow more her brother than her siblings here (at least biologically speaking, she is very close to her siblings here). So we did do a little age-appropriate overview of that to dispel that idea.
The only other thing I can think of (again, not step-family specific, but possibly extra important in a blended family) is that we made sure to listen if she seemed to have a question or concern and did our best to make sure she felt free to ask questions or talk about things that she was wondering or concerned about. We even found a couple opportunities to actually ask outright if she had any questions or if there was anything she was wondering or worried about.
Congratulations, and good luck! I think the fact that you have a strong and positive relationship with your step-daughter will go a long way all on its own!
My DSD is 12, nearly 13 now and DS is 11 months, so I've been through this recently. Some things we did:
1. DSD was one of the very first to find out. Before our parents even. It was soo hard because we didn't want to tell to early and risk going through the losing of the baby, etc. I will still in the first trimester, but maybe 10 weeks?
2. We encouraged her to ask ANYTHING she wanted to and treated any question or comment with respect. If we didn't feel comfortable discussing something we just said so kindly. The funniest was the realization about an hour after the announcement that if there was a baby then me & her father had been having sex LOL
3. We always referred to them as brother/sister, not "half".
4. We took her with to register for stuff and let her put whatever she wanted on the registry. I admit I'm glad no one bought the bedding set because I honestly didn't want all that stuff!
5. We let her offer any and as many names as she wanted, but did say in advance that there was every possibility we wouldn't pick one of them. We made sure to mention that every now and then, and were upfront about names we didn't like (in a nice way of course).
6. She did come to one visit with us and heard the heartbeat and said it was creepy. In my hormonal state I was pretty upset about it but managed not to snap at her. So be prepared that a visit like this could go either way.
7. I made sure to give her lots of love and attention.
8. She came to the hospital about 12 hrs into labor (technically she was too young). We had discussed this a lot ahead of time. I thought it would be a really great experience, but it was 100% her decision. We discussed how much pain I was likely to be in and how very important it was that she be positive and supportive and that if she got scared or upset she should leave the room. AND that her dad was there to support me and wasn't going to be available for her. This sounds harsh, but I knew I was going to need him and I wanted everything clear from the get go. I'm happy to say she did really well.
9. The hardest thing. I didn't get my "babymoon". She lives with her mom but came to our place the day before I came home from the hospital.
Above all make sure she feels part of the family, not like an extra or 'forgotten' (DSDs biggest worry). Now she is a fabulous big sis. I let and insisted on her holding her brother as soon as possible and keep her involved (with supervision) as much as possible.
She's definitely getting the "half" sibling message from her mom, so we've been counteracting that already. We took her to a midwife appointment so she could hear the heartbeat and I think it kind of freaked her out, but in a good way. Lol.
We haven't talked about the labor thing, but I don't think I would be comfortable with her being there. Right after the birth for sure, but this is my first baby and I think having her there would probably be super distracting for me.
Keep the advice coming, it's helping!!!!
We made it really clear to my parents, sisters, grandparents, cousins, etc that dss was to be treated the same as DS and DD by them. That means they are also his family and they have three grandkids, etc. They treat all the kids the same, if they are going buy Christmas presents they buy for all and of equivalent size, cost etc. They are all very receptive to this so for us it was just about letting them know how we saw there role and allowing them to have this kind of relationship with him.
I am a stepmom to my 8 year old SD and 5 (almost 6) year old SS and I am 27 weeks pregnant. The SKids are super excited.... A couple of things that we did, that I believe made all the difference are:
- we told the kids first (well we actually told our parents first, but that was it... they believe that they were told before anyone else and they are mostly right) We were prepared to then have everyone else know and told the XW immediately following telling the kids. We told her a couple of days before the kids went back to her, so she had time to digest and call whoever she needed without the kids around
- we always just refer to them as brother/sister and never use half... but then again, we rarely use "step" either in our house
- we make a point of drawing connections between them and the baby. For example, at the end of my first trimester I was craving baked potatoes and I would say things like..."wow Jake, this little baby sure is a lot like you! Potatoes are one of your favourite foods and all I want to eat is potatoes!" The kids love this when I can do this...
- we have given them a bit more to do around the house and talk about ways they can help when the baby comes
- we frequently talk about the baby and what life may be like when the baby is here... the kids love to ask, "How old will I be when the baby is in grade one?" or "when the baby is 8, can I take it to the store for an ice cream?"
So far things are really great. I don't pretend that it will be perfect, but these few things seem to have made a huge difference!
Curious how you, or anyone else who did something similar, went about this? Something informal like an email, or through lawyers? Despite the fact that DSD's mom refers to her own step-siblings as siblings and aunts/uncles to DSD without any "step," I anticipate that she will not extend that practice to DH's and my expected bean. In general she seems to view the most distant members of her family as being more important than even DH to DSD, so while I hope I'm wrong, I can't discount the possibility of the "half" game.
I'm also stressed at the fact that, if bean comes on schedule, DSD won't get to meet her new sibling until baby is a month old with the way the spring holidays trump DH's weekends. Even though DH has accommodated DSD's mom in taking her to meet (step) cousins for a few hours as they were born during his parenting time, we're not expecting the same courtesy in return. Do kids care if so much time passes before meeting a new sibling? Maybe it's not as awful to them as it seems to me. DSD is 7.
I can't wait to tell family, but I don't want to tell people to keep DSD in the dark, and at the same time don't want to share it with her mom until hitting 2nd trimester or when things seem more "sure." Also would like for DSD to be among the first to know, if not the first. But DH doesn't want to wait that long to tell everyone. He would have told everyone the day we found out if I had let him--he says it's too hard to be excited without sharing the news! For others with ... less than ideal situations with "the ex," how long did you wait to spill the news (with the ex/child)?
To other posters, the advice is all wonderful. I know DSD will be overwhelmingly excited. She's been saying how much she wants a sibling during the past couple sessions with her counselor (who knows, maybe she's saying it because mom has news of her own) and I'm taking note of these tidbits for when we DO let the cat of the bag.
I just sent an email letting them know I was pregnant, our expectation that they not use 'half' language and gave "We don't want any of the kids to feel like they don't completely belong as part of our family." as the reason. I'm sort of going on faith that they'll consider how their words might affect their grand children's feelings. At least when I've laid it out like that, they can't claim ignorance if they DO pull that crap. DD likes to call them, so I hear bits of the conversation... whenever she mentions the baby or DH, they change the topic. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all, right? Good enough for me.
We don't have the friendliest relationship with DH's ex, nor does she try to keep things civil for her daughter's sake. However, the first time I was pregnant, we pretty much just said screw it, and told DSD right away, as we were so excited. She did tell her mom, who was shockingly very supportive about it. Sadly, that first pregnancy only lasted about 8 weeks, until we found out it was a blighted ovum. We told DSD on one of our nights that we were losing the baby, and she had a school program a few nights later, when we still had her. Her mom approached me there, offered her congratulations, and asked very nicely how I was feeling. So I then got to tell DSD's mom that I was miscarrying. That was fun.
We asked DSD after that pregnancy if she wanted to be told so early, or if she wanted us to wait to tell her until we had SEEN a baby and the odds of miscarriage were a little lower. She chose to have us tell her. So when I got pregnant again in June, we told her, and asked that she keep it to herself for a while. Thankfully, she was able to do this, so when I lost the baby a few weeks later, we were able to mourn in privacy.
I do think from DSD's mom's reaction to the first pregnancy, she will choose to be supportive if I am ever able to maintain a pregnancy. I also think that at DSD's age, she would have felt very left out had we chosen not to tell her that I was pregnant right away. When we told her the second time, she asked how long we'd known, and was very happy that we'd only found out a few days before. Autumngrey, I think DSD would have been horrified, and felt very, very left out, if a month passed between a sibling being born, and her meeting it. As we have 50/50 custody, this wouldn't happen for us, thankfully. I also don't think DSD's mother would ever be so hurtful as to let that happen, so our relationship with DH's ex must be a little better than yours. I'm sorry for that.