Creating a STRONG Step Family

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Posted by: Sue Atkins

I’m delighted to be published in Dad Info a super website for Dads and Step Dads.

Here’s my article.

Stepfamilies have a bad image. Think of Snow White’s jealous stepmother or Cinderella’s ugly sisters or, at the other end of the spectrum, the unrealistically positive stepfamily, the Brady Bunch.

Real life is more complicated than either of these stepfamily models. Stepchildren have to come to terms with lots of new and often confusing situations – their “new” family, their parent’s new partner, their new stepbrothers or sisters and a whole new way of life, different rules, different schools, and different routines.

The whole experience can leave children feeling isolated, confused, anxious, or resentful and there can also be pressure to be a ‘perfect family’, but it takes time to get to know one another.

So, I’ve been exploring stepfamily myths to help you create a great positive stepfamily easily, effortlessly and naturally.

Stepfamily myths

Myth 1: Marriages are easier the second time around.

Fact: All marriages are different. Of course, both parents learn things from their first marriage, but each relationship is different, unique, and special.

Myth 2: All stepfamilies learn to love each other eventually.

Fact: Some do, some don’t. Some family members will grow to love one another; others merely tolerate each other. But respect is a vital key energy that helps families work and bond together.

Myth 3: Stepfamilies work the same way as first-time families.

Fact: Families develop individually and have their own styles. Blending a family takes time and patience.

Myth 4: Children are so adaptable and they’ll quickly and easily accept the situation.

Fact: Adaptability depends on the child. Some children whose lives change dramatically find accepting others difficult, while others don’t. You can’t predict how your child will come to terms with the new situation that they find themselves in.

Myth 5: If I’m kind and loving to my partner’s children, everything will be ok.

Fact: It’s a lovely sentiment, but it only looks at a relationship from one side – which is from your perspective. Sometimes children need to grieve and come to terms with the loss of the family they knew. So, no matter how nice you are to your stepchild, they may still be unhappy.

Myth 6: Relating to stepchildren is just the same as relating to my own kids.

Fact: Stepchildren and natural children are different. Expecting to feel exactly the same way towards stepchildren as your natural children is unrealistic and remember the feeling can be mutual. If you’ve ever heard ‘You’re not my Dad -you can’t tell me what to do,’ you understand that step parenting takes patience, skill, and self-control.

Blending together.

suggest that you start to think in terms ‘ slowly cooking up a stepfamily’  rather than ‘blending a family’ which puts pressure on you to rush the process.

Blending suggests that everyone merges together easily, whereas in reality, families integrate slowly – just like in a casserole!

To continue the cooking analogy a step further, as a parent you must understand that time and low heat make a healthier family combination.

Let your stepchild dictate the pace of the relationship. Accept that being ‘Daddy’ to your own child, ‘James’ to your stepson, and ‘Mr Harris’ to your new teenage stepdaughter is okay. Be flexible and adaptable in your relationships.

Dealing with the disruption

Going through any change is difficult, so expect to experience a series of stepfamily stages:

1. Fantasy stage: Family members are on their best behaviour. During this period everyone imagines they’ll love one another and create one big jolly family living happily ever after.

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