Gayla Grace on Birth Order Angst in Stepfamilies

Birth Order Angst in Stepfamilies: How to Help Step Siblings Adjust


“I don’t have to mind you!” The comment spewed from my oldest daughter, Jamie, to her older stepsister, Adrianne. Jamie had been the oldest child in our family before I remarried and refused to take direction from another sibling.

Adrianne was my husband’s first-born daughter—age 10 when we married. Jamie was my first-born daughter—age 5 when we married.  Both girls held the role of “the boss” of their younger siblings (or so they thought!)

Jamie was now the middle child in her new stepfamily. And Adrianne thought SHE was the boss.

Birth order struggles are real.

When you combine two families, it’s easy to forget the effects of birth order change.

We had never considered the birth order collision that would take place between these two. We expected them to get along, but how could they when both of them were fighting for the same role?

Jamie now had a big sister and Adrianne needed help learning to relate to a younger sibling. One that resented being thrust into the middle child position.

Dr. Kevin Lehman has written an entire book on the effects of birth order in a stepfamily, titled:  Living in a Stepfamily Without Getting Stepped Helping Your Children Survive the Birth Order Blender.

Here’s one important suggestion he gives:

When a child who is born into one birth order lands in another position in his blended family, do not treat the child as something he is not. He may have to take on different responsibilities or play different roles at times, but never forget who he really is.

Time helps with the adjustment of birth order changes, just like it helps with most other stepfamily adjustments. Jamie never stopped being the oldest, but she did learn to enjoy having an older sister.

In their young adult years, pictured below, Jamie and Adrianne have found love and understanding for one another that reaches beyond the tension of their early years.

Like many changes that have to be considered when families merge, the effects of birth order changes need to be considered also.

Do you have a birth order story to share from your stepfamily? I’d love to chat with you in the comments.

Coping with Unexpected Challenges on Your Stepfamily Journey

I sat by my phone anxiously, watching every text that came across. My niece was having a baby, and I wanted to know the details. Was it a boy or a girl?  What was the name? How big? How was my niece doing?

ID-100396479So many questions. The answers were slow to come. And then a revelation no one expected.

The baby was delivered, and all seemed to be fine. A beautiful baby girl. Eleanor Joy. My niece was doing great.

But without warning, another text crossed my screen. Something wasn’t right. A diagnosis no one suspected had surfaced.

Beautiful Eleanor Joy had Down Syndrome. The doctor was certain of it.

I shuddered as I reread the text. No! It can’t be! I thought. The extensive ultrasounds. The routine prenatal visits. How was it never discovered? How will my niece and her husband cope with this unexpected turn?

Questions without answers. They dominate life. How do you handle them?

In our stepfamily journey, we had an unexpected turn eight years into our marriage. We had moved past the hard transitions, and our family was beginning to enjoy more peaceful relationships. Our four children could sit at the dinner table without fighting (on occasion!)  and hope was on the horizon.

But the call from my husband’s ex-wife with unexpected news shook our family to the core. She had colon cancer—late stage. Read more

Stepmom Retreat on the Horizon – Come Join Us!

“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”

The pastor’s words were meant to inspire our young kids to be careful about who they choose to spend time with. But I’m convinced it’s the same with adults. If we choose to hang with other stepparents who are bitter and angry, complaining about stepfamily life, it will influence us.

Why not choose to embrace your role and learn how to rise above your challenges at our next Stepmom Retreat? Come meet some positive stepmoms and build camaraderie with others walking the same journey.

You’ll find details at but here’s the skinny:

April 11-13, 2014

Belleville, IL (outside St. Louis, MO at a beautiful retreat center)

$109 Early bird registration ends February 14th. It’d be a perfect Valentine’s gift for you!

Find community, be encouraged, get refreshed!

Come join us! Meet Laura Petherbridge, author of The Smart Stepmom, and hear how you can find hope, help, and healing on your stepmom road.

Go to our website to learn all the details. I’d love to meet you and hope you’ll make plans to attend!  Here are comments from ladies who attended our last retreat:

  • “I learned that I’m not alone; this is worth it in the long haul. Plus I can see things through the eyes of my stepchild a little better.”          Dallas Retreat – Oct. 2013
  • “My marriage was almost over when I came to this retreat. My husband even asked me to move out. But now I have found help, and what I need to try again. I think we will make it now.”          Dallas Retreat – Oct. 2013
  • “It’s helped me to understand what normal struggles look like for a stepmom. I’m not alone in how I feel.  The retreat really encouraged me!”          Dallas Retreat – Oct. 2013
  • “Indescribable!  Perfect timing”          Dallas Retreat – Oct. 2013
  • “I found HOPE, and I learned it’s ok if it doesn’t turn out like I want it to. My stepkids may one day come around, but it’s possible they may not.”          Dallas Retreat – Oct. 2013

What stepmom challenge are you facing? We’ll help you find answers!