September 30, 2017/by Stefany Lyn Schaefer-Riecke
Last month I officially became a stepmother. The moment we formed a new blended family was very special, but the road to that joyful moment was planned carefully to help my stepdaughter cope with the transition into a blended family. Divorced parents must deal with the usual transitions plus the challenging transitions that divorce creates for their children. Eventually, either one or both parents find new significant others which adds another layer of challenges for children.
For me, it was very important for my stepdaughter, Sam, to feel comfortable through the transition. That is the reason I enrolled in the FamilyKind Recoupling and the Stepfamily Workshop provided by Linda Paul, a Stepfamily Foundation Certified Coach. The workshop provided me with information and insight that was a tremendous help.
From the very beginning of our relationship my husband, Scott, and I discussed and set a plan in motion to mitigate any challenges my stepdaughter might experience from our relationship.
Once Scott and I were serious about our relationship, we decided to introduce me to Sam as a family friend in an environment where she felt safe. Our first introduction was during Christmas of 2014 at a family Christmas party where I bonded with Sam and her cousins. The next few meetings took place in the same manner around Sam’s family, and helped us become familiar with one another. By the summer of 2015, I joined Scott and Samantha for a family vacation in the Jersey Shore where Scott asked Samantha if they should invite me to visit them in Massachusetts. She was thrilled! However, Scott and I planned the next meeting carefully because we wanted Samantha to invite me into their home on her own. We decided to meet at a coffee shop near the house and see what Samantha suggested for the day. To my delight, Samantha immediately invited me to the house to see her bedroom.
By late October 2015, Scott and Sam visited me in NYC to run a 5k together. The meeting was going to be another normal meeting for the three of us, but to my surprise, Sam asked me if I wanted to be her father’s girlfriend. Scott and I did not expect that question, and I blushed as I happily accepted the offer.
Between our special NYC 5k and May of 2016, most of our visits took place around Sam’s family except a couple of sleepovers at home to get Sam used to the idea of me moving in. By May of 2016, Scott and Sam discussed me moving in, and Scott made it clear to Samantha that she had an active role in the decision. Of course, she was thrilled and said yes.
The next big step for our soon-to-be blended family was for me to meet Sam’s mom. Luckily, she was accepting of our relationship, but I still sought out advice from my friend and colleague, Shari Bornstein. As a parent coordinator helping divorcing families, Shari was able to guide me through the meeting. When the day finally arrived, Sam and her mother came over to the house for breakfast, and we all had a pleasant conversation over French toast. Sam was very excited to have us all together.
In August 2016, I moved into the house with my new family and Sam was happy with the change. A year later, Sam and I walked down the aisle together on our wedding day. I say, “our wedding day” because, in the end, it was as much Sam’s day as it was for the bride and groom. She stood in the front of the ceremony the entire time right alongside the two of us.
I am thrilled to say we are a happy blended family. I think prioritizing Sam’s emotional wellbeing and taking the introduction process slowly helped us all get to a happy start to an incredible journey.
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Stefany Lyn Schaefer-Riecke is a special projects coordinator for FamilyKind and a new stepmom.