Suggestions for Stepfamilies
All families have difficulties: Children playing one parent against another, money issues, and parents finding time to be alone are just some of the challenges parents encounter. Stepfamilies are no different. It takes up to three years for a combined family to start working like a family. Practice patience!
For parents it is critically important that you come to terms with your past. New partners deserve someone who has explored the good and bad of a previous marriage. The emotional well-being of each person is important for a healthy, new marriage. So take stock of your emotional health and do the work that is required to make you a relationship asset.
Each parent should strive to have good communication with the children’s other parent. That lays a foundation that meets the needs of the children as you parent apart. Communicate with ex-partners and understand that children living in two families need respectful and caring relationships in stepfamilies and, whenever possible, with birth parents.
Suggestions for Stepparenting:
- Love your children no matter what.
- Provide an environment with rules, expectations, and limits.
- Remember that children don’t always listen to you but they are always watching you. Modeling is important — remember to treat your former spouse civilly. Your children will then behave more civil themselves.
- The biological parent should be the primary disciplinarian. In time a stepparent has more authority. In the absence of the biological parent, the stepparent should have authority and support of the biological parent. The new parent may provide insight for a biological parent who’s willing to listen.
- First time parents may want to take a parenting class.
- Stepparents should not try to replace the parent. You are special and unique and in time will create your own relationship with the children. Allow for the biological parent to have time alone with their children.
- The new parent should be a spouse first and give the parent role time and space to develop.
Pay attention to your marriage and do something together beyond everyday duties. Your relationship will gain depth and increased satisfaction. Some couples find shared service through volunteering, or are brought closer together through prayer and worship.
Finally, you will bring traditions and activities from your previous life. Add to these by creating new traditions and enjoying activities as a new family. The results will bring stability in marriage.
You may also be interested in New Families and Traditions.
University of Minnesota Extension Service (1997). Parents Forever: Education for families in divorce transition. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota Extension Service.
Allen, R. and Tralle, M. (2004). We agree: Creating a parenting plan. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota Extension Service.