Saturday, June 30, 2012

Being a stepmom to adult children whose mother has died

stepfamily

A little less than a year ago, I became stepmom to three adult children. Their mother died almost four years ago from complications from treatment of lung cancer. It was very sudden in that she died just a couple of months after being diagnosed. It was unexpected in that they were actually beating the cancer. Her tumor was shrinking - which ultimately caused her death by tearing the chest wall. She bled to death internally. I didn't know her well but, I did know her and, having lost my own mother to ovarian cancer, I empathize with the pain her children have experienced.

29 sec ago ·

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - stepfamily A little less than a year ago, I became stepmom to three adult children. Their mother died almost four years ago from complications from treatment of lung cancer. It was very sudden in that she died just a couple of months after being diagnosed. It was unexpected in that they were actuall ...

Friday, June 29, 2012

Characteristics of Successful Stepfamilies

The Vishers define a successful stepfamily as one who is successfully meeting the challenges so that the majority is generally satisfied with their new family arrangement. They have also identified characteristics of successful stepfamilies. Think about how your family is doing in response to the following characteristics:

Losses have been mourned. Stepfamilies often are formed out of loss. Adults and children in successful stepfamilies acknowledge these losses but are ready tomove on to new way of family life. They are looking to the future. Often visiting with others who have dealt with or who are dealing with similar situations can be helpful in this transition.

Expectations are realistic. One who holds realistic expectations about stepfamily life will understand and accept its realities while resisting a belief in itscommon myths noted earlier. Knowing what to expect will help you be patient with stepfamily integration, which can take from one and a half to five or six years, depending in part on the ages of the children.

There is a strong, unified couple. Even though it may seem like trying to “have a honeymoon in the midst of a crowd,” the successfully remarried couple plans enough time alone together to nourish their relationship.

Constructive rituals and traditions are established. Traditions related to holidays and special events are important ways for families to be together. Successful stepfamilies continue the traditions established in earlier families or combine them to form new traditions.

Satisfactory step-relationships have formed. Step-relationships take time to grow and develop. Successful stepfamilies have an awareness of this and work formutual satisfaction.

The separate households cooperate. Resident and nonresident parents have developed a parenting coalition. Instead of competing with one another, cooperative parents focus on the best interests of the child in ways that promote positive child development and continued beneficial contact with both biological parents.

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - The Vishers define a successful stepfamily as one who is successfully meeting the challenges so that the majority is generally satisfied with their new family arrangement. They have also identified characteristics of successful stepfamilies. Think about how your family is doing in response to the fo ...

Stepparent Adoption - Western Australia

Step-ParentAdoptionInformationGuide.pdf Download this file

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - Step-ParentAdoptionInformationGuide.pdf Download this file ...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Step parenting groups in brisbane - Stepfamily Discussion

Can you help answer this question?  Are there any  step parenting groups in Brisbane?

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - Can you help answer this question?  Are there any  step parenting groups in Brisbane? via stepfamilymagazine.com ...

Remarriage and Repartnering Centacare Brisbane

Re-Marriage/Re-Partnering

Re-marriage and re-partnering can involve a number of challenges and changes. Facilitators work with couples to explore expectations, changes in family structure and dynamics, new parental roles and implications for children.

Fees

Please contact Centacare Catholic Family and Community Services for fee advice.

Contact

58 Morgan St
Fortitude Valley 4006
Ph: (07) 3252 4371

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - Re-Marriage/Re-Partnering Re-marriage and re-partnering can involve a number of challenges and changes. Facilitators work with couples to explore expectations, changes in family structure and dynamics, new parental roles and implications for children. Fees Please contact Centacare Catholic Family an ...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Parenting after separation - focus on kids - Relationships Australia NSW

This course helps parents to understand, focus on and respond to the needs of their children after a separation. It looks at ways to support children and addressing their issues constructively even when there is ongoing conflict between the parents. Parents attend separately from their former partners.

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - This course helps parents to understand, focus on and respond to the needs of their children after a separation. It looks at ways to support children and addressing their issues constructively even when there is ongoing conflict between the parents. Parents attend separately from their former partne ...

Mums and Dads Forever Program

Separation is a time when many difficult decisions need to be made. Issues involving children and their needs are often difficult to resolve because of the breakdown of the relationship between parents.

The Mums & Dads Forever program helps separated parents manage conflict and act in the best interest of their children. The program has been developed to assist separated parents help their children come to terms with a different family situation and communicate in ways which keep children feeling safe and happy.  

For further information please phone 9263 2104.

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - Separation is a time when many difficult decisions need to be made. Issues involving children and their needs are often difficult to resolve because of the breakdown of the relationship between parents. The Mums & Dads Forever program helps separated parents manage conflict and act in the best inter ...

Stepfamilies


Based on a landmark longitudinal study, the nation's leading expert on stepfamilies reveals his breakthrough findings and offers the first detailed guide to easing the conflicts of stepfamily life and healing the scars of divorce. There are more than twenty million stepfamilies in America. For most of them, the simple, daily issues that challenge every family are even more anxiety-provoking. After conducting a comprehensive nine-year-long study funded by the National Institutes of Health, Dr. James H. Bray has written an invaluable book that explains why over half of all stepfamilies fail and reveals the strategies that help the others succeed. A stepfamily is assaulted on all sides by difficult and often divisive questions. How much control should a stepparent have over a stepchild? How much authority should a nonresidential parent exert over a child? How should a difficult former spouse be handled? How does an "ours" baby change the emotional dynamic in a stepfamily? Why is there a lack of "honeymoon effect" during the first years of stepfamily life?

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - Based on a landmark longitudinal study, the nation's leading expert on stepfamilies reveals his breakthrough findings and offers the first detailed guide to easing the conflicts of stepfamily life and healing the scars of divorce. There are more than twenty million stepfamilies in America. For most ...

The Secrets to Stepfamily Success

THE SECRETS TO STEPFAMILY SUCCESS offers tools that can significantly lower the alarming 70% rate of step and blended family divorce, helping families evolve into highly nurturing, reliable refuges of warmth, safety, encouragement, strength, caring, and joy. Step and blended families have a unique dynamic with which couples must cope, along with all the other normal challenges of life and marriage. See how these families differ in up to sixty structural and dynamic ways from typical intact biological families—including consisting of two co-parenting homes and ex-spouses—and learn how to successfully recognize and manage these challenges. For most couples, trying to build a successful remarriage can mysteriously bring out their deepest personal fears, longings, shames, and hopes. The key to not only survival, but living this journey well, begins with discovering opportunities to heal and to succeed; it is not about blame or badness. With the right preparation and resources, a multi-home step or blended family can be a stable and solid foundation for co-parents and children.

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - via astore.amazon.com THE SECRETS TO STEPFAMILY SUCCESS offers tools that can significantly lower the alarming 70% rate of step and blended family divorce, helping families evolve into highly nurturing, reliable refuges of warmth, safety, encouragement, strength, caring, and joy. Step and blended fa ...

Stages of Repartnering

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Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - via tipsandsteps.com ...

Considering why you are repartnering

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Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - via tipsandsteps.com ...

Tips for getting along with Stepchildren

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Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - via tipsandsteps.com ...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Nonresidential parent issues - Stepfamily

After a divorce, children usually adjust better to their new lives when the parent who has moved out visits consistently and has maintained a good relationship with them.

But once parents remarry, they often decrease or maintain low levels of contact with their children. Fathers appear to be the worst perpetrators: On average, dads drop their visits to their children by half within the first year of remarriage.

The less a parent visits, the more a child is likely to feel abandoned. Parents should reconnect by developing special activities that involve only the children and parent.

Parents shouldn't speak against their ex-spouses in front of the child because it undermines the child's self-esteem and may even put the child in a position of defending a parent.

Under the best conditions, it may take two to four years for a new stepfamily to adjust to living together. And seeing a psychologist can help the process can go more smoothly.

Source: Making Stepfamilies Work

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - After a divorce, children usually adjust better to their new lives when the parent who has moved out visits consistently and has maintained a good relationship with them. But once parents remarry, they often decrease or maintain low levels of contact with their children. Fathers appear to be the wor ...

Parenting in stepfamilies

The most difficult aspect of stepfamily life is parenting. Forming a stepfamily with young children may be easier than forming one with adolescent children due to the differing developmental stages.

Adolescents, however, would rather separate from the family as they form their own identities.

Recent research suggests that younger adolescents (age 10-14) may have the most difficult time adjusting to a stepfamily. Older adolescents (age 15 and older) need less parenting and may have less investment in stepfamily life, while younger children (under age 10) are usually more accepting of a new adult in the family, particularly when the adult is a positive influence. Young adolescents, who are forming their own identities tend to be a bit more difficult to deal with.

Step-parents should at first establish a relationship with the children that is more akin to a friend or "camp counselor," rather than a disciplinarian. Couples can also agree that the custodial parent remain primarily responsible for control and discipline of the children until the stepparent and children develop a solid bond.

Until stepparents can take on more parenting responsibilities, they can simply monitor the children's behavior and activities and keep their spouses informed.

Families might want to develop a list of household rules. These may include, for example, "We agree to respect each family member" or "Every family member agrees to clean up after him or herself."

Read more...Making Stepfamilies Work

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - The most difficult aspect of stepfamily life is parenting. Forming a stepfamily with young children may be easier than forming one with adolescent children due to the differing developmental stages. Adolescents, however, would rather separate from the family as they form their own identities. Recent ...

LifeWorks - Parenting in a Step-Family

What's different in step-families? Living in a step-family brings both challenges and highlights. This program provides an opportunity to explore the unique relationships between couples, children, ex-partners and extended family within a step-family.

Learn more about how to balance everyone's needs and how to strengthen relationships.

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - What's different in step-families? Living in a step-family brings both challenges and highlights. This program provides an opportunity to explore the unique relationships between couples, children, ex-partners and extended family within a step-family. Learn more about how to balance everyone's needs ...

Stepfamily Counselling Parramatta

When people divorce and remarry, they often have unrealistic expectations and then are quickly disillusioned, feeling guilty and self accusatory when their new stepfamily does not integrate and settle down. Relationships in stepfamilies are not developed overnight, and integrating the different expectations and ways of doing things often takes a long time, it may take up to 3 to 4 years, to form a solid alliance and work as a team to meet the stepfamily challenges.

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - When people divorce and remarry, they often have unrealistic expectations and then are quickly disillusioned, feeling guilty and self accusatory when their new stepfamily does not integrate and settle down. Relationships in stepfamilies are not developed overnight, and integrating the different expe ...

Good things about stepfamilies

There are lots of good things about living in a stepfamily:

stepfamilies * You are part of a family again.
* You may feel safer.
* It's good to see mum or dad feeling happy with a new partner.
* There's another adult to talk to or do things with.
* There may be more money in the home, so life could be easier.
* There may be new stepsiblings to know and play with.
* You may have lots more relatives to care about you (and maybe even buy you presents!!)
* You may even have a new brother or sister to love.

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - There are lots of good things about living in a stepfamily: via cyh.com ...

Stepfamily Information from Life Support Counselling

Step_families_life_support.pdf Download this file

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - Step_families_life_support.pdf Download this file ...

Counselling Victoria | Life Supports Counsellors

Life Supports' rooms are located at:

Level 1
401 Whitehorse Road,
Balwyn, Victoria 3103

For a map and directions on how to get there: click here


11 Adams Place,
Geelong Vic 3220

For a map and directions on how to get there: click here


Level 1, Suite 2,
253 Lonsdale Street,
Melbourne Vic 3000
(name on door is "Counselling@253)

For a map and directions on how to get there: click here


24 Station Street,
Moorabbin Vic 3189

For a map and directions on how to get there: click here


2/326 Keilor Road,
Niddrie Vic 3042

For a map and directions on how to get there: click here


Suite 1, Ground Floor,
10 Little Chapel Street,
Prahran Vic 3181
(name on door is "Counselling@253)

For a map and directions on how to get there: click here


183 Buckley Street,
Seddon Vic 3011

For a map and directions on how to get there: click here


430 Nicholson Street,
Fitzroy North

For a map and directions on how to get there: click here

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - Life Supports' rooms are located at: Level 1 401 Whitehorse Road, Balwyn, Victoria 3103 For a map and directions on how to get there: click here 11 Adams Place, Geelong Vic 3220 For a map and directions on how to get there: click here Level 1, Suite 2, 253 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne Vic 3000 (name o ...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Step Family: Not A Cinderella Story

Step families are quite common and prevalent nowadays. Many children today live with their parents one of whom might not be biologically related to them. However, even today, children are apprehensive when their mother or father marries again and a new person is joins their families. While this situation is perfectly normal, it is sure is delicate and needs to be handled with caution so that such families do not turn into a Cinderella story.

Children are naturally attached to the families they see during their birth. Their biological mother and father matter the most to them because they are used to their love and care. So when they lose one of their biological parents or when their parents split up, it is very hard for them to see the families they have grown up with, be meddled. Again when a complete stranger enters their life and wishes to replace their parents, it is very difficult for them to accept them into their families.

Read the full story...

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - Step families are quite common and prevalent nowadays. Many children today live with their parents one of whom might not be biologically related to them. However, even today, children are apprehensive when their mother or father marries again and a new person is joins their families. While this situ ...

When should you remarry

The simple answer is after you have fully come to terms with the end of your previous relationship. This is particularly important if you did not want the first marriage to end, and had to deal with the pain of leaving or being left by your previous partner. It takes longer than many people expect to get over the end of a long term relationship, even if you were unhappy and felt that the end was inevitable.

Some studies suggest many people take at least two years to adjust to the end of a long term relationship. There are many exceptions to this. Some people take longer, others adjust more rapidly. Ask yourself:

  • Do I find myself thinking about my ex-partner and do these thoughts still arouse strong feelings such as anger and resentment?
  • Have I adjusted to living alone again?
  • Have I regained a sense of self-confidence?
  • Can I look back on that relationship and recognise some of the things that contributed to its breakdown?


In other words, am I emotionally free to re-partner? Can I put all my emotional energy into this new relationship without allowing my feelings about my previous relationship to get in the way?

Just as you cannot re-marry until you are legally free to do so, being emotionally free to re-marry is also important.

Source: Relationships Australia

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - The simple answer is after you have fully come to terms with the end of your previous relationship. This is particularly important if you did not want the first marriage to end, and had to deal with the pain of leaving or being left by your previous partner. It takes longer than many people expect t ...

Men and Separation

men_separation_pdf_23885.pdf Download this file

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - men_separation_pdf_23885.pdf Download this file ...

Myths About Stepfamilies

  • Myth 1: "People quickly adjust to being part of a stepfamily."

There is no such thing as an instant adjustment. It will take time and effort for everyone to feel comfortable in the new family. Unfortunately some children may never feel comfortable.

  • Myth 2: "Loving and caring will develop instantly."

The idea that the new step-parent and step-children will instantly love each other and recognise each other's strengths is unlikely to happen. Love cannot be forced upon each other and the relationship may take time to develop.

  • Myth 3: "Working hard prevents the development of the 'wicked' step-parent image."

Step-parents come into families and frequently work too hard to make everyone in the household happy, and to avoid being seen as the horrible stepmother or stepfather. Unfortunately, this can create tension rather than harmony.

  • Myth 4: "Anything negative that happens is a result of being in a stepfamily."

Frequently children and adults blame their problems on the fact that they are living in a stepfamily. All families have difficulties, not just stepfamilies.

  • Myth 5: "Stepfamilies are the same as first-time-round families."

The expectation for the new family to appear like a first-time-round family with two natural parents and their children living in one household together, can cause pain for everyone. It leads to a denial of the existence of other parents and relatives. It is important to accept that the stepfamily will never be the same as the first-time-round family and to see the benefits of being in a stepfamily.

Source: Relationships Australia Queensland

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - Myth 1: "People quickly adjust to being part of a stepfamily." There is no such thing as an instant adjustment. It will take time and effort for everyone to feel comfortable in the new family. Unfortunately some children may never feel comfortable. Myth 2: "Loving and caring will develop instantly." ...

Supporting children and young people after family separation.

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - via raq.org.au ...

Stepfamily Realities - Spring Hill July 2012

This course is usually facilitated by two educators, with a maximum of 12 participants. The course includes these themes:

  • Identifying your beliefs and expectations about stepfamilies
  • Exploring stages from fantasy and confusion to stability and commitment
  • Seeing each person's point of view - including caring for yourself
  • Nurturing your relationship skills and the role of both the biological and step-parent
  • Developing positive discipline techniques with creative, cohesive approaches
  • Finding family traditions that include each member of your stepfamily
  • Managing your relationships with ex-partners

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - This course is usually facilitated by two educators, with a maximum of 12 participants. The course includes these themes: Identifying your beliefs and expectations about stepfamilies Exploring stages from fantasy and confusion to stability and commitment Seeing each person's point of view - includin ...

How Relationships Australia can help you

Relationships Australia runs courses that deal with issues such as living in a blended family.  Find out about the Family Skills - Parenting Courses in your state or territory.

If you are unsure whether to proceed with re-marriage or setting up a household together, or if you are finding things heavy-going after you have taken that step, consider talking to a counsellor.

A counsellor's experience of the challenges and difficulties of re-marriage and stepfamilies could be of assistance to you.  It makes more sense than ignoring the difficulties and hoping for the best.

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - Relationships Australia runs courses that deal with issues such as living in a blended family .  Find out about the  Family Skills - Parenting Courses in your state or territory. If you are unsure whether to proceed with re-marriage or setting up a household together, or if you are finding things he ...

Stepfamilies are different - Tips and Steps

Stepfamilies are in some ways like first-time-round families.  They are also, in many other ways, vastly different.  Most people who become a part of a stepfamily are unprepared for the differences.  These differences can include:

  • The complexity of stepfamilies - there are many more family relationships in stepfamilies.  There are likely to be grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and a parent living outside the family with no links with other members of the stepfamily.
  • The new couple’s different attitudes to child-rearing.
  • Emotional upheavals. Family members may have experienced distress from the break-up of the previous marriage or relationship. Some may still be grieving for the family they have lost.
  • Huge changes. All members of the stepfamily, including those living outside the family, must cope with the change and make a number of adjustments.
  • More parents. There are more parent figures in a stepfamily and the parenting may be shared by someone outside the family.
  • Different likes and dislikes. There is no common history and different family members may have different ideas about how things are done.

Read more from Relationships Australia

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - Stepfamilies are in some ways like first-time-round families.  They are also, in many other ways, vastly different.  Most people who become a part of a stepfamily are unprepared for the differences.  These differences can include: The complexity of stepfamilies - there are many more family relations ...

Thinking of Forming a Stepfamily? - Some Practical questions to consider

Some practical questions to consider before forming a stepfamily

  • Legal - Are you clear about your legal position when you re-marry or re-partner?  For example, have you thought about the responsibilities of a step-parent towards his or her stepchildren?  What about the effect of re-marriage or re-partnering on a previously made will?
  • Housing - How much space will you need?  What are the views of the children about sharing a room or a house with a stepbrother or stepsister whom they hardly know?  Would it be easier if you had a new start in a new home?  Is that possible and would that be the best use of your finances?
  • Finances - What are your costs going to be?  How will re-marriage or re-partnering affect income from sources such as social security benefits or maintenance by a former partner?  How will you manage your finances so that no member of the new family will feel disadvantaged?  How will you meet your commitment to children of your previous marriage/relationship?

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - Some practical questions to consider before forming a stepfamily Legal - Are you clear about your legal position when you re-marry or re-partner?  For example, have you thought about the responsibilities of a step-parent towards his or her stepchildren?  What about the effect of re-marriage or re-pa ...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Avoid putting down your ex-partner in front of your children.

Avoid putting down your ex-partner in front of your children. Negative comments about the other parent, even those that are true, put children in the difficult role of having to pick which parent to believe.

Pay particular attention to what is said over the phone and to friends or relatives. Children often overhear what their parents say to others.

A put-down comment about an ex-partner could be taken personally if the child identifies with their other parent.

Dealing with the ex

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - Avoid putting down your ex-partner in front of your children . Negative comments about the other parent, even those that are true, put children in the difficult role of having to pick which parent to believe. Pay particular attention to what is said over the phone and to friends or relatives. Childr ...

Helpful Strategies to Deal with Ex-partners in Remarriages

dealwith_expartners.pdf Download this file

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - dealwith_expartners.pdf Download this file ...

Managing Stress in Stepfamilies

managing_stress.pdf Download this file

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - managing_stress.pdf Download this file ...

Advantages of stepfamilies

Some of the advantages of stepfamilies may include:
  • The child now has extra adults to care for them, as well as their parents.
  • The child has extra brothers and sisters.
  • The adults are happier in their new relationship.
  • The family members may enjoy a higher standard of living thanks to combined incomes.
  • There is an opportunity to feel part of a two-parent family again.

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - Some of the advantages of stepfamilies may include: The child now has extra adults to care for them, as well as their parents. The child has extra brothers and sisters. The adults are happier in their new relationship. The family members may enjoy a higher standard of living thanks to combined incom ...

Stepfamily Loyalty Issues

Some of the biggest issues for couples are those to do with loyalties and jealousy. The bond between parent and child is very strong and needs respect and understanding. Some couples struggle with the powerful feelings and loyalty that a parent has for their children and may feel pushed out by this.

It’s important to remember that children will always hold a very special place in a parent’s heart and this is quite different from the feelings they have for a partner. What's more, children grow up and move away, so a parent’s attention will not be divided forever.

The other area of tension can be around ex-partners. If former partners are still involved in parenting (which hopefully they will be) then it's not possible to completely move on from the past. There'll always be a connection that some new partners can struggle with.

Remembering that the relationship has changed and the common ground is the children, not anything else, can help you to maintain perspective and work with your partner in the best interests of the children.

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - Some of the biggest issues for couples are those to do with loyalties and jealousy. The bond between parent and child is very strong and needs respect and understanding. Some couples struggle with the powerful feelings and loyalty that a parent has for their children and may feel pushed out by this. ...

The pressures of being a stepcouple

People in stepcouples often don’t have much time to be together and build their relationship before children enter the scene. And if you both have children, then you'll have other priorities and commitments competing for your attention.

If only one of you has children then that person may find themselves feeling guilty that they can't focus 100 per cent on the relationship, while the partner without children may feel resentment at not having them all to themselves.

The home and family system is complex and a new couple who just want to be able to live together can feel overwhelmed by all the other considerations.

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - People in stepcouples often don’t have much time to be together and build their relationship before children enter the scene. And if you both have children, then you'll have other priorities and commitments competing for your attention. If only one of you has children then that person may find thems ...

Stepfamilies

A stepfamily forms when one or both adults in a new couple bring children from a previous relationship. Although stepfamilies look like first-time families on the outside, they are very different on the inside. The first step toward making a successful stepfamily is understanding the differences between stepfamilies and first-time families. The previous marriage may have ended in divorce or in death. The original parent may be a never-married single parent or an adoptive parent. The new couple may be gay or straight.

Stepfamily Australia - http://stepfamilyaustralia.posterous.com - A stepfamily forms when one or both adults in a new couple bring children from a previous relationship. Although stepfamilies look like first-time families on the outside, they are very different on the inside. The first step toward making a successful stepfamily is understanding the differences bet ...

Surviving and Thriving As a Stepfamily | Psych Central


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Surviving and Thriving As a StepfamilyAll families face challenges. But stepfamilies encounter unique obstacles that can make or break their family. These unique challenges are inherent to all stepfamilies. Fortunately, there are strategies you can successfully use to foster a healthy stepfamily.

Whether you’re thinking about becoming a stepfamily, you just joined one or you’ve been a stepfamily for years, knowledge of how stepfamilies work is valuable at any stage. Below, you’ll learn the differences between first-time families and stepfamilies, the challenges stepfamilies face and how to overcome these obstacles.

The Stepfamily Differences

There are key differences between first-time families and stepfamilies, and knowing these distinctions is important for the success of your family. First-time families have a built-in bond, as well as bonds that have developed over time. In a first-time family, the adult couple usually “has some time to connect and to develop shared ways of doing things,” said Patricia Papernow, Ed.D, a psychologist in private practice in Hudson, MA, and a nationally recognized expert on stepfamily relationships.

First-time couples create rituals like reading the paper together on Sunday morning or having dinner at home most nights. They have the time to work out some of the kinks in their relationship, however big or small.

Then a child is born into this kind of cohesive relationship. Of course, “the birth of a kid interrupts the behavior or intimate connection of the couple, but they still have the memory or sense of intimate connection,” said Papernow, who’s also author of the book Becoming a Stepfamily: Patterns of Development in Remarried Families, and the upcoming book Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships (Routledge, 2012).

“When things go well enough, children are born hardwired to connect to their parents and parents are hardwired to connect back,” she said. Aside from certain genetic wiring, kids “arrive into parents’ relationships somewhat unformed.” Over time, the family develops its own rhythm and identity. “By the time, kids are six or seven, there’s a lot of shared ground about thousands of things we’re aware of and many we’re not aware of at all,” she said. 

If a family splits up, a child experiences both big and small losses, everything from daddy not making pancakes in the morning to having to switch schools, Papernow said. Then, as the family becomes a single-parent home, new rituals are again formed and solidified. Early in her practice, Papernow worked with a woman who was devastated by her divorce. She’d play John Denver records really loud to make herself feel better. This became a ritual with her kids. Papernow and her daughter had a special place they’d visit every summer.

It’s not surprising, then, that when single parents start dating, the stepparent becomes an outsider. He or she enters a household that has already accumulated years of history, ritual and structure, Papernow said. Plus, as she explained, while the couple may be madly in love, “the primary attachment still lies between the parent and children.”

The Stepfamily Challenges

There are five challenges that all stepfamilies face, according to Papernow. Fortunately, there are specific ways you and your family can overcome these challenges. Below, you’ll find the challenge, followed by tips to overcome them.

1. Challenge: The Stuck Insider Outsider

In a first-time family, children tend to feel closer to mom or dad at different times during their development, which is painful enough for parents, Papernow said. In a stepfamily, though, the roles are stuck. The stepparent is the stuck outsider, and the parent is the stuck insider, she said. This can cause stepparents to feel disconnected from both their spouses and stepkids.

For instance, any time kids have a problem, they naturally move toward the parent. Even if the couple is having a serious talk over lunch, when the child bursts through the door crying, the parent will naturally switch attention from stepparent to child. This can leave stepparents feeling abandoned and can cause a rift in the relationship.

How to overcome it: First, as Papernow said, it’s important to expect that this will happen and to know that it has nothing to do with your spouse’s feelings for you. People often wonder who comes first: the kids or the new spouse, said Christina Roach, a national certified counselor and president and founder of Success for Steps, a resource dedicated to stepfamilies. But she said that the very question cultivates a competitive environment, where members of the stepfamily are working against each other.

Instead, Papernow recommended having an agreement between the couples that stepparents will simply do their own thing (like going for a walk or calling a friend) while the parents and kids talk. Parents do need to reconnect with their spouses later.

2. Challenge: Loss & Loyalty Binds

For kids, the new couple represents a loss, Papernow said. “Even under the best circumstances [of a divorce], there is still a lot of loss and grieving for all the people involved,” said Lisa Blum, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in private practice specializing in working with children, families and couples in Pasadena and West Hollywood. For some kids, this is very profound. They feel like they’ve lost a parent, their lifestyle, social position (“child of a divorced family”) or a sense of stability and security, she said. Papernow added that “research is establishing that the transition into a stepfamily is actually more challenging for children than divorce, partly because it compromises the parent-child relationship.”

“The entry of a stepparent creates both losses and a loyalty bind,” Papernow said. The new stepcouple pulls the parent’s attention away from their children.  And, for many kids, connecting with their stepparents feels like betraying their other parent. This is especially common if a child has a particularly close relationship with the parent in the other household.  If someone is badmouthing any of the adults in a child’s life, the bind intensifies.

Children enter a stepfamily more connected to their parents than to their stepparents. In addition, stepfamilies create losses and loyalty binds for children. This only increases the need for some children to distance their stepparent, adding yet another layer to the stepcouple’s outsider insider relationship, she said.

How to overcome it: “Parents and children need regular, reliable time alone together,” Papernow said, “not multitasking time!” This is a bond that stepparents can’t share, Roach added. Stepparent and child also need their own time to get to know each other, without the parent being present. As Papernow recalled, she and her stepdaughter would be connecting while playing cards, but as soon as her dad came home, the stepdaughter would whip away from her.

Roach suggested engaging in side-by-side activities, such as baking cookies or making lunch together, which are less intense than sitting face-to-face together. Stepparents can teach stepkids new skills. Papernow taught her stepdaughter how to sew.

She also emphasized the importance of having a “loyalty bind talk.” Let your child know that lots of kids feel confused when they have a parent and a stepparent. Be clear with your child that the stepparents don’t replace parents. For instance, if the child is younger, you can say something like this, Papernow recommended: “Your mom will always have a permanent place in your heart. All moms do; permanent like the sun and mountains, and nothing will ever change that. You have a permanent place in my heart, too. I like Susan [the stepparent], and I hope you’ll come to like her. Even if you do, she’ll have a different place in your heart.”

Stepparents also can have this talk by reiterating that they’re not trying to replace the parent. When trying to bond with stepkids, “create rituals that are new and different,” especially if the other parent passed away, Blum said.

3. Challenge: Parenting

Parenting can divide the couple, and it’s one of the biggest challenges a new couple will face, Papernow said. Every household has its own rules, and every parent has his or her own way of disciplining the kids. Seemingly small things like grape nuts and sugar cereals can become points of contention, like in Papernow’s household.

How to overcome it: Research shows that it’s best for the parent to remain the disciplinarian. If an issue with a stepchild comes up, speak to your spouse about it. Because parenting is a sensitive subject, Papernow said, it is important to raise these things with sensitivity and care. She teaches her clients a technique called “soft, hard, soft” when bringing up a parenting issue to your spouse. Say something caring at first, such as “I know your kids aren’t used to this, and they’re doing their best.” Then, say the hard thing but with the same soft energy, followed by another “soft” comment. As Papernow said, this is very different from criticizing and labeling.

Also, don’t create a bunch of rules and boundaries right off the bat. Pick one to two rules that are non-negotiable. Have some conversations about your parenting styles and what’s appropriate and not appropriate in your household, Blum said.

Teens can be involved in the rule-making process and share their ideas, making sure that they know parents have the final say, Blum said.

4. Challenge: Cultural Differences

Stepfamilies are more likely to be different ethnically and religiously than first-time couples, Papernow said. “The number of differences can be stunning,” she said. It can be something as small as how a person likes their silverware organized or the music they enjoy. The woman whose kids loved John Denver? Her new husband couldn’t stand his music.

How to overcome it: Expect that there will be lots of differences, Papernow said. Avoid setting lots of new rules immediately. Part of the reason is that you don’t know the culture of your family yet. Some differences may be obvious, while others are subtle and it can take months or years to see them. Find two or three things that are really important to both of you, and negotiate something that meets the needs of both the stepparent and the kids, or for both sets of kids.

5. Challenge: The Ex

“Whether, they’re dead or alive, good or bad, ex-spouses are part of the family,” Papernow said. Naturally, this affects the stepfamily. For kids, “according to research, the worst thing isn’t divorce, it’s conflict,” she said. Even tense, quiet conversations between ex-spouses affect kids profoundly, whether you see it or not. Research has shown that moderate tension increases kids’ cortisol levels and affects sleep, attention and school functioning.

How to overcome it: Parents must protect their kids from tension and conflict. Don’t badmouth your ex-spouse. This not only upsets kids but it also makes them more defensive and likely to side with the other parent. Talk with your ex when your child is out of earshot, Papernow said. If your ex starts a fight at pick-ups, turn away and move on as quickly as you can, she said.

If face-to-face interactions are difficult, arrange pick-ups so you don’t see your spouse. If talking is difficult too, communicate over email, Blum recommended. This “just takes the intensity and emotion out of it,” she said. Also, respect the other parents’ rules in front of your child.

Being part of a stepfamily is difficult and requires time and effort to make it work. Have realistic expectations, know the challenges, keep communicating and keep working at it.

Page: « 1 2View All»

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor at Psych Central and blogs regularly about eating and self-image issues on her own blog, Weightless.
APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2011). Surviving and Thriving As a Stepfamily. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 23, 2012, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2011/surviving-and-thriving-as-a-stepfamily/
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