When one or both adults bring children into a new family, it’s a stepfamily. These blended families are very different from other families. The dynamics of the previous marriage will influence the family – as divorce or death cause very different emotions. If a new parent was never married or childless, that fact also affects the family.
In stepfamilies, there are “insiders” and “outsiders,” and those roles shift as the new family structure develops. The “outsider” status leaves children and stepparents feeling rejected and lonely.
A young child might feel abandoned by a parent who is devoted to a new spouse. Teens may feel uneasy about the sexuality of their romantic parents. The children must also face that their parents are indeed divorced and everything is changing.
Family therapy can help resolve these and other issues in newly blended families.
Under the best conditions, it may take up to four years for a new stepfamily to adjust to living together. Parents need at least two years to start functioning as a unit. Their stepchildren will likely need more time, depending on their ages. For most families, seeing a psychotherapist can help the process can go more smoothly.
If you want everyone to get along, acknowledge that it’s no small feat. It will take work to figure out co-parenting styles, finances/money, and other issues. You will need a plan. You will also need to be aware of the difficulties.
You will need to discuss multiple issues regarding parenting styles, the division of labor, date nights, access to grandparents and extended family members, long-term goals, financial planning.
Imagine how it must be to have all these strangers in your space. The kids didn’t vote on this arrangement, so be patient, and help them adapt to the new situation.
Don’t assume that your style of discipline will work for your stepchildren. It’s important that you talk to your partner about your rules and discipline style. It’s unfair to change the rules on a child overnight.
The relationship you have with your stepchild should be a special one. Take time for you and the child to spend special time alone. Make it clear that you care. Quit thinking of the child as “his/her kid.” Realize you are now an important person in this child’s life. It’s time to get better acquainted.
Of course, there’s much more to integrating two families. A psychotherapist can help you get started with the process before you get married — and continue to help you integrate your family after the big day. If your relationship is to succeed, it’s important that you put time into planning for that success, preparing for the bumps along the way.
To find out more about Step-Families Services, contact Leslie Terner’s office located at 5480 Wisconsin Avenue Suite LL8 Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815. Leslie Terner provides Step-Family counseling in Chevy Chase, MD, and its surrounding areas.To book an appointment by calling 301-718-1758
5480 Wisconsin Avenue
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
Fri and Sun: Closed
I am a Certified Psychiatric Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist in Chevy Chase, Maryland. I have been in private practice since 1999. I help clients to heal and gain insight into why they have developed their behaviors.