Helping your Stepfamily over the Holidays – ‘The Survival Guide’


Helping your Stepfamily over the Holidays – ‘The Survival Guide’

Contemporary Australian families look significantly different to what they did a generation ago.  Step and blended families are our fastest growing family types and face unique difficulties over this so called “most wonderful time of the year”.

“More than a million of us are in stepfamilies, and they can be a truly wonderful, and at  other times very challenging,,” says Stepfamilies Australia Executive Officer, Phoebe Wallish.

Peak organisation STEPFAMILIES AUSTRALIA has released a ‘Stepfamily Survival Guide for the Holidays’, along with a useful book appropriate for  the whole family to offer some help to the 1 in 5 of us in step and blended families to positively communicate with one another at this often stressful time of year..

STEPPING UP Tip for less stress in the holiday season:

  1. Be realistic with your expectations – It is the season of giving – so ‘give’ a little, accept that it not always possible to please everyone, including yourself! You may have to divide up your holidays or ‘your time’ with the children.  It doesn’t all have to be on the one day, suggest options and be open to later in the week or even in the New Yearmake the getting together NOT the day itself count.
  2. Spending time rather than money – Presents are good, but children do want happy, fun and calm times with their parents and their families – these are the memories that they store and recall as adults.  Focus on experiences and memories by making the most of your time together.
  3. Honour the ‘old’ and Create the ‘new’.  Family traditions are so important! Ensure you keep some traditions from before you blended, as kids hold onto these, but also create new traditions as stepfamily. It is a good opportunity to involve everyone to ‘cherry-pick’ the best of your combined and collective family histories and experiences.
  4. Offer time, support and understanding – particularly for stepchildren and stepsiblings, acknowledging at first that they have no shared family histories. Don’t pressure kids to feel or act in certain ways. Make the time special for all whatever it might look like.
  5. Remember perfect families don’t exist – Despite manufactured, media images of perfect families – no family (stepfamily or otherwise) is immune from holiday conflicts, divided loyalties, competition. Try to be in the moment and enjoy what you can – All things pass with time – including the good and the bad – knowing this can help.
  6. Long-distance parenting can be hard, particularly at this time of year – Make sure you plan ahead and have something positive for yourself to do on the day.  You may not be able to be there with your children but keep communication open and positive – Kids these days use phones to text, email, Facebook, Instagram etc.  It is not the same, but it is the next best thing and you will have something to share when you next see one another.

Stepfamilies Australia’s Book for the Holidays – Ossie’s World Upside Down by Margaret Howden

Stepfamilies Australia’s founder, Margaret Howden has written a wonderful family book “Ossie’s World Upside Down”.  It is about Ossie, a 10 year old boy, adjusting to the changes in his family. It is a warm, funny and affirming read, as well as  great conversation starter for parents to talk with their  children about the dealing with the changes that step and blended families face.

Buy your copy for the holidays at (any profits go towards helping other step and blended families)

When things seem all too hard, it is important to reach out, connect and get some advice. It can be the most positive thing you can do for yourself, your children and your relationships.  The Stepfamilies Australia website  has some advice and helpful links, as well as connecting with professional support and other stepfamilies through our Facebook page where you can connect with others who understand the ups and downs of stepfamilies. We also have some tips for school holiday activities to help during this time.


For all media enquires please contact Phoebe Wallish on

Some Stepfamilies stats that important to know:

  • 76% of homeless teens come from step and sole parent families (Chamberlain and MacKenzie)
  • 1 in 5 children and young people will grow up in stepfamilies (survey of family research by Pryor and Rodgers, Children in Changing Families: Life after parental separation, Blackwell, 2001)
  • Step mums out number step dads three to one
  • One in 3 marriages is now a remarriage and half of stepfamily couples do not marry (ABS)
  • Family breakdown costs the community $3 billion per year (Commonwealth Parliament Committee report 1998)
  • Stepfamily breakdown rates are twice those of first families (AIFS research)
  • If parents are not coping with relationship breakdown then they don’t parent well, leading to issues for their children including: higher incidence of mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, early teen pregnancy and school leaving, homelessness, antisocial behaviour, crime and suicide