When families blend and stepfamilies are created, it is not uncommon for problems or conflict to arise. This adjustment process comes with its own unique rewards and challenges.
Research findings suggest that a stepfamily takes several years to develop into a family unit.
In order to increase your best chance of success as you establish your blended family, consider the following tips as you get started:
- Create a personal relationship with your stepchild(ren), letting them set the pace.
- Support your spouse’s relationship with his/her child(ren).
- Maintain an ongoing discussion with your spouse regarding your child-rearing and discipline expectations.
- Set aside time to spend together as a new family to bond and figure out the new relationships.
- Keep negative comments about ex-spouses to yourself. Research continues to support that one of the primary sources of children’s problems after a divorce is the inability of parents to keep negative feelings towards their ex (or their partner’s ex) to themselves.
- Compartmentalize. When all members of a merging family are present, often feelings of “being stuck in the middle” or “feeling left out” surface from biological and step-parents. These emotional pulls are normal in merging families but can lead to overwhelming stress and anxiety. One way to reduce these emotional pulls and strengthen your merging family is to separate periodically and spend quality time with smaller units of the family. For example, a stepparent may spend one on one time with their stepchild without the biological parent present.
Written By: Michelle Rathburn, LAMFT