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Mistakes to Avoid in Stepparenting
 

Parenting red figures.jpgNowadays, so many people go into a blended family situation. They begin by desperately wanting to make it work. They might have previously suffered from a relationship loss, either by divorce or death, and don't go easily into a new alliance, especially because of children—theirs, the new spouse's, or both. But regardless of how hard they struggle with major issues, the men and women who have created and lived in blended families say it often is the little things that trip you up and lead to the big fallout. Sadly, many experts report that over half of all remarriages end in divorce.

Below are ways in which people trip in stepfamilies. It's wise to become aware of these potential stumbling blocks so one can keep both their balance and their blended family intact.

  • Being impatient
    Biological families are created slowly, with the couple having time to get used to themselves as a unit and each other's extended family before a child comes into the fold. In a blended family, however, two thirds of the family exists before the newcomer is admitted. The children have finally gotten used to being with one parent at a time since the divorce and don't welcome yet another change.
  • shutterstock_91928030.jpgSuddenly, the new spouse and addition to the family pops up on the scene. It's like suddenly being the new boy or girl in the classroom or on the team. Everyone else knows the rules and group history but you. Too often the biological parent pushes the new spouse onto a fast track, expecting that the children will automatically fall in love with the stepparent just because he or she did. Just like two positive (or negative) fields of a magnet held together, the kids are repelled to the opposite direction immediately.

Sometimes it is the new stepparent who wants to "prove" that he or she is going to be a great addition to the family. The stepparent tries too hard for affection and approval, and by doing so, inadvertently pushes the kids away because they feel resentful and guilty about this person who is trying to supplant their mom or dad. The harder the stepparent tries to win the kids over, the more they resist. It's frustrating for the adult who only wants to reach out to the loved one's kids.

shutterstock_117189670.jpgRemember to keep doing those things you did when you first met their parent, such as bringing little gifts from time to time or arranging some special time alone with the step kids. Be patient. Love grows slowly, and it doesn't seem to matter if the stepchild is two or twenty.

Planning for remarriage

A marriage that brings with it children from a previous marriage presents many challenges. Such families should consider three key issues as they plan for remarriage:

  • shutterstock_144828550.jpgFinancial and living arrangements. Adults should agree on where they will live and how they will share their money. Most often partners embarking on a second marriage report that moving into a new home, rather than one of the partner's prior residences, is advantageous because the new environment becomes "their home." Couples also should decide whether they want to keep their money separate or share it. Couples who have used the "one-pot" method generally reported higher family satisfaction than those who kept their money separate.
  • Resolving feelings and concerns about the previous marriage. Remarriage may resurrect old, unresolved anger and hurts from the previous marriage, for adults and children. For example, hearing that her parent is getting remarried, a child is forced to give up hope that the custodial parents will reconcile. Or a woman may exacerbate a stormy relationship with her ex-husband, after learning of his plans to remarry, because she feels hurt or angry.
  • Anticipating parenting changes and decisions. Couples should discuss the role the stepparent will play in raising their new spouse's children, as well as changes in household rules that may have to be made. Even if the couple lived together before marriage, the children are likely to respond to the stepparent differently after remarriage because the stepparent has now assumed an official parental role.

Marriage quality

While newlywed couples without children usually use the first months of marriage to build on their relationship, couples with children are often more consumed with the demands of their kids.

shutterstock_154240514.jpgYoung children, for example, may feel a sense of abandonment or competition as their parent devotes more time and energy to the new spouse. Adolescents are at a developmental stage where they are more sensitive to expressions of affection and sexuality, and may be disturbed by an active romance in their family.

Couples should make priority time for each other, by either making regular dates or taking trips without the children.

Parenting in stepfamilies

shutterstock_136815941.jpgThe 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.

shutterstock_130240184(1).jpgRecent 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.

Stepparents 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."

Stepparent-child relations

shutterstock mother child.jpgWhile new stepparents may want to jump right in and to establish a close relationship with stepchildren, they should consider the child's emotional status and gender first.

Both boys and girls in stepfamilies have reported that they prefer verbal affection, such as praises or compliments, rather than physical closeness, such as hugs and kisses. Girls especially say they're uncomfortable with physical shows of affection from their stepfather. Overall, boys appear to accept a stepfather more quickly than girls.

 

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