SUPPORTING AUSTRALIA'S MANY STEPFAMILIES
With stepfamilies making up about one in five Australian families, Sunday (26 July) -- National Stepfamily Awareness Day -- is an opportunity to recognise the support that's available to make family transitions as smooth as possible.
The Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen MP, said it is important for parents to remember that there are certain stresses for children in re-partnered families.
"Merging two families or bringing a new partner into an existing family can present highs and lows as everyone -- parents, new partners, kids and the extended family -- gets used to new arrangements," Mr Bowen said.
"The impact and pressures on children who are in a new step family can be significant."
The Child Support Agency's (CSA) free Me and my Changing Family booklet can help stepfamilies build healthy relationships and deal effectively with the tensions and challenges of new family arrangements.
More than 200,000 hard copies have been distributed since the CSA launched this popular booklet three years ago with thousands more downloaded from the web.
Steve Martin from Stepfamilies Australia said stepfamilies are more complex than their biological equivalents.
"Biological families have 'family trees', but stepfamilies have family forests," Mr Martin said.
"National Stepfamily Awareness day is a chance for all stepfamilies to celebrate their success in creating, sustaining and nurturing their families".
Mr Martin recommended the Me and my Changing Family booklet to parents, as well as contacting Stepfamilies Australia at www.stepfamily.org.au or by phoning (03) 9639 6611. Free copies can be downloaded in PDF or MP3 format or ordered from www.csa.gov.au or by calling 1800 040 972.
Parents can also find support services in their area on the Community Services Directory on the CSA website at www.csa.gov.au.
Chris Bowen MP
Minister for Human Services
Minister for Financial Services,
Superannuation and Corporate Law
A stepmum's story ...
One Queensland family's life resembles that of the Brady Bunch, only more complicated. Separated and repartnered mother Rebecca (not her real name) says she has two children from her first marriage, plus two with her current partner, plus two from his previous relationship. Through a positive attitude towards separated parenting and a focus on good communication, all of them get on very well together.
"From the beginning of the separation, my ex and I have shared the care of our kids -- one week on, one week off. We both contribute fairly equally to the children through that arrangement, and then if school fees or anything else comes up beyond that we talk about it the decision and split any costs.
"Communication is really important. We communicate very well -- in fact better now than when we were together. Perhaps that's because you are removing all those emotional things that were there in the relationship.
"We both have other partners now. I don't get involved in major issues involving my new partner's kids, and he doesn't get involved in our bigger issues.
"The kids have the benefits of two lifestyles -- they've had two sets of birthday presents and two lots of pocket money their whole lives! They also get the benefits of two different parenting styles. My ex is in the military and has a strict approach to discipline, so when the kids come back here I'm more easy-going, which I think is good for them too.
"We don't speak negatively about the other parent and that's benefited their emotional wellbeing significantly. The other benefit is that the kids get to spend more one-on-one time with each parent -- something that didn't happen much at all before the separation. We both really appreciate that, and the kids do too."
Me and my Changing Family -- Moving forward
This free book is for people who are thinking about starting a new relationship, have started a new relationship (and are looking for tips for making it easier), and those affected by someone's decision to start a new relationship.
The book also covers:
* What to expect when forming a new family
* Practical tips on dealing with everyone's needs -- including the reader
* How children may react when told about the intention to start a new family
* Strategies for making it work
* Tips on how to help kids cope
* Tips on how to get along with new step children
* Making rules and disciplining arrangements (i.e. discipline for new children)
* Holding family meetings
* Making new routines and family arrangements
* Legal Issues
* Financial Issues
* Getting along with a new partners ex
* Some tips on if your ex re-partnered
* The involvement of grandparents in these families
* Support services
* Tips and hints on how to support your children
* Experiences from other re-partnered families
* Plus plenty of links to a range of additional support government and private organisations for further information
It will help you to:
* Understand that your situation is normal
* Understand the roles and relationships of everyone who is affected
* Know where to go if you need extra help
* Understand the challenges facing new families, and how to meet them.
Other booklets are available which may also be of assistance:
* What About Me (Taking care of yourself)
* Me and My Kids (Parenting from a distance)
* Me and My Changing Family
(Tips on building healthy relationships after separation)
* Me and My Money
(Tips and hints to help stretch your dollar after separation)
To order call 1800 040 972 or visit www.csa.gov.au/publications
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