Navigating a blended family can be complicated at times, and as with all families (blended or not), they come with a lot of quirks.
When it comes to a step-family, there's a lot of meaning behind a specific term or name. There are families where the kids call both parents 'Mom' or 'Dad,' regardless of whether they are their biological parents or not. In other families, the kids may opt to address their stepparents by their first names. Some non-biological parents will reference their non-biological children as their 'bonus kids' while others stick with the common phrasing of 'step kids.'
There's no right or wrong—each family should choose what makes everyone feel comfortable. But, in our family, there's one term that's never been up for use in our home—the phrase 'half-siblings.'
In our house, we don't differentiate between siblings regardless of who the birth parents are. We don't suggest that one sibling is more or less of a relative to each other depending on what adult they came from. Throughout five years, two sets of parents, two households, and five (half or step) siblings, I've only ever heard them call each other 'brother' or 'sister.' And why wouldn't they?
Although our kids are technically half-siblings, they're 100% whole to us because of the love they share and their bonds that deepen between them every day.
My stepdaughter is fortunate to have both a dad and mom who successfully co-parent together. They are both fully present and engaged in their child's life. I'm beyond proud to be this amazing child's stepmom.
When the time came, we discussed as a family which phrasing she would prefer and, despite the lousy rep Cinderella and her wicked stepsisters tried to give the term, we happily settled on 'stepmom' for me and 'stepdaughter' for her. This is what worked for us, and it might be different terms that work for other people. But there's one thing that remains the same—there is nothing wrong with being in a blended family.
Our blended family life can get complicated—even though we all get along—we're not perfect. There are a lot of emotions at stake and egos at play. Sometimes, despite good intentions, us parents flounder and make mistakes. While it hasn't been a completely smooth ride getting our family to this point, there's one aspect of our lives that I'm so proud of. All parents involved—both biological and step—have all managed to successfully make one thing seamless despite many stumbles and lots of chaos: keeping the kids and their feelings top-of-mind.
I try my best to respect the boundaries that exist in my role as a stepmother while also treating my stepdaughter as though we're blood. (Which is sometimes to her dismay because all of my children have to clean their rooms, do their homework, and quit the backtalk.) Because us parents are modeling this equality-promoting behavior, it makes sense that she, her brother, and her sister would treat each other the same way.
We don't differentiate between siblings because at the end of the day, it honestly doesn't matter. Half or step, they're all family members. We support and promote the loving relationship they share with each other and not only has it paid off, but it also proudly shows. My stepdaughter loves sharing how many brothers and sisters she has. She'll even break it down as to how many siblings she has at her moms and her dads. She'll even tell you the names of her dog siblings if you have the time!
Shared parenting can be challenging, but when there are kids at stake, it's easy to see who and what's important. All the parents treat all the kids the same, never excluding and always encouraging.
My son looks forward to seeing and playing with his sister's other brother while watching his big sister play soccer and my youngest daughter loves when her big sissy comes home, excitedly running down the hallway to see her when she arrives before school in the mornings.
Blended family living isn't easy for anyone, especially the kids. With the back and forth between homes, the switchover days, and the scheduled-swapping, it can be easy to feel divided or disconnected. By promoting the use of 'brother' or 'sister,' it's one way we try to help them feel connected on a regular basis.
Half, step, or whole siblings it doesn't matter. The love is full no matter what.
You might also like:
- The secret to raising siblings who get along
- I'm so grateful to my divorced parents for committing to peaceful co-parenting
- 5 expert-backed tips for creating emotionally healthy sibling relationships