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5 things stepkids want stepparents everywhere to know.

'There will be bad days, good days, and in between days for new families.'

5 things stepkids want stepparents everywhere to know.

I’m somebody’s stepchild.

My sons are my husband’s stepsons. Needless to say, I’ve been around the block a couple of times when it comes to blended families.


Image via iStock.

To a stepchild, gaining a new parent can be curious, exciting, troublesome, or unsettling. A young child might reject the new stepparent or they might have high expectations that a new person would assume this role with ease. And combining two households into one can be challenging and stressful, but if it’s done with care and consideration, it can also be beautiful.

I was curious though: What are the some things stepkids want their new family members to think about before the families merge? A few stepchildren, young and old, chimed in to answer my questions, and I’ve condensed their surprising and important answers below.

1. "Remember, I was here first."

Stepkids aren't saying you should bow to their every whim and make them first in every situation from now on, but before you were there, they were the center of their parent’s attention. Now that you are around, so many things have changed for them. Let them have as much of the “same old” relationship they had with their parent as possible. Give them opportunities to still be in the spotlight when it comes to special routines and one-on-one time with their parent.

Image via iStock.

2. "Make me feel like you’re glad that I’m around."

This might not always be an easy thing to do, and it might not be natural. As a stepparent, you might even have to pretend for awhile. Stepparents and stepkids have to get to know each other, and you might not know how to get to know your stepchild. Ask them (or their parent) about things they're interested in and try to find common ground. You might enjoy one another’s company right away or it might take a very long time. But if you seem uncomfortable around them, they're going to be uncomfortable around you.

3. "Please do not speak harshly about the people I love."

If you have a lot of trouble with one of your stepchild's siblings, close friends, or relatives, please refrain from discussing this with or in front of your stepkid. If you have gripes about their parent, please understand that their loyalty to them will always be greater than their loyalty to you. And if you have bad things to say about their other parent, please realize that this will only cause more division between you.

4. "Please be patient with me."

Neither a stepparent or a stepchild knows how to do this “right.” Stepkids might be uncertain, afraid, reluctant, or insecure about your presence for reasons that have nothing to do with you personally. Sometimes they won’t respond or behave the way you think they should. Unless they're doing something highly inappropriate or dangerous, please give your stepkid space and time to adjust to your presence.

5. "Don’t ask me to change too many things."

Your stepkid and their parent have been doing things a certain way for a long time before you came into their lives. You might see a lot of things that need improvement. Remember, though, things are about to change a lot for both you and them. Be careful not to pull the well worn, comfortable rug out from under them. You will both learn to live with each other if you are patient. Let the little things slide while you are still getting to know each other.

Image via iStock.

There will be bad days, good days, and in-between days for new families.

There will be many celebrations, many awkward moments, many victories, and many mistakes. Becoming a blended family isn’t always easy — but it is a task worth taking on with empathy and compassion, and a little bit of humor too!

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by Adelin Preda on Unsplash

A multinational study found that bystanders intervene in 9 out of 10 public conflicts.

The recent news report of a woman on a Philadelphia train being raped while onlookers did nothing to stop it was shocking and horrible, without question. It also got people discussing the infamous "bystander effect," which has led people to believe—somewhat erroneously, as it turns out—that people aren't likely to intervene when they see someone being attacked in public. Stories like this uninterrupted train assault combined with a belief that bystanders rarely step in can easily lead people to feel like everything and everyone is horrible.

But according to the most recent research on the subject, the Philadelphia incident appears to be the exception, not the rule. A 2019 multinational study found that at least one bystander (but usually more) will actually intervene in 9 out of 10 public conflicts.

The idea that people in groups aren't likely to intervene stems largely from research on the 1964 story of Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old woman who was stabbed to death outside her apartment in New York, while dozens of onlookers in surrounding apartment buildings allegedly did nothing. However, further research has called the number of witnesses into question, and it appears that several did, in fact, call the police. Someone reportedly shouted out their window and scared the attacker away for a few minutes, and someone did rush to Genovese's aid after the second attack.

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