A Mini Step Parenting Guide:

Continued from our October edition of "Inside Our Home"


Last month we wrote about the situations that arise in blended families and how desperately the new couple want their individual families to become one.  We found so much valuable information on the subject that we divided it into two parts. Hopefully our readers who might need to learn these guidelines will benefit from learning from the professional opinions and case histories we researched. Hoping these tips will remove some of the stumbling blocks associated with this issue and help keep mingled families intact.

Nonresidential parent issues

shutterstock_79831276.jpgAfter 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.

shutterstock_147481301.jpgParents 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.

shutterstock_130827320.jpgIt's predicted that 50% of children in the US will go through a divorce before they are 18. Approximately half of all Americans are currently involved in some form of step relationship. Since the year 2000, according to the Census Bureau, more Americans are living in step families than in nuclear families.

According to experts, it is known that our culture provides no guidelines for such difficult transitions for families to negotiate. We learn that our culture forms rituals and assumptions still relate chiefly to the intact, first marriage family. The most ordinary event, such as filling out a form or celebrating a holiday, can become a source of acute embarrassment or discomfort for members of remarried families.

Rules for Stepfamilies

Ten Steps for “Steps”

Step 1.

Recognize that the stepfamily will not and can not function as does a natural family. It has its own special state of dynamics and behaviors. Once learned, these behaviors can become predictable and positive. Do not try to overlay the expectations and dynamics of the intact or natural family onto the stepfamily.

Step 2.

shutterstock_13644193.jpgRecognize the hard fact that the children are not yours and they never will be. We are stepparents, not replacement parents. Mother and father (no matter how AWFUL the natural parents) are sacred words and feelings. We are stepparents, a step removed, yet in this position can still play a significant role in the development of the child.

Step 3.

shutterstock_104910743.jpgSuper step parenting doesn't work. Go slow. Don't come on too strong.

Step 4.

Discipline styles must be sorted out by the couple.  Generally, in the beginning, it is suggested that the biological parent does the disciplining as much as is feasible. The couple together specifically works out jobs, expected behaviors and family etiquette.

Step 5.

Establish clear job descriptions between the parent, stepparent and respective children. What specifically is the job of each one in this household? Be as detailed as you are in business.

Step 6.

Know that unrealistic expectations beget rejections and resentments. There is no model for the step relationship except for the wicked stepchild and invariably cruel stepmother of fairy tales. Note the absence of myth around the stepfather. It is vital for the survival of the stepfather to be able to see and delineate expectations for each member of the family, especially the primary issues of upset in step: e.g., money, discipline, the prior spouse, visitation, authority, emotional support, territory and custody.


Step 7.

There are no ex-parents... only ex-spouses. Begin to get information on how to best handle the prior spouse.

Step 8.

Be prepared for conflicting pulls of biological energies within the step relationship. In the intact family, the couple comes together to have a child. The child is part of both parents, generally pulling the parents' energy together for the well-being of the child. In step, blood ties can polarize a family in opposite energies and directions.

Step 9.

The conflict of loyalties must be recognized right from the beginning. The conflict is particular to step and is a round robin of confused emotions. Often, just as the child in step begins to have warm feelings toward the stepparent, the child will pull away and negatively act out. He/she feels something like this: "If I love you, that means I do not love my real parent." The feelings are normal and must be dealt with. The pulls of "Who am I loyal to first?" go all the way around in the stepfamily.

Step 10.

shutterstock_148195190.jpgGuard your sense of humor and use it. The step situation is filled with the unexpected. Sometimes we don't know whether to laugh or to cry. Try humor.

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