The Role of a Stepparent
The most frequent mistake that people make when marrying into stepfamilies is believing that they're like "normal" or nuclear families. Although stepfamilies have become much more common and accepted in recent years, people still fall into the trap of expecting them to run on automatic.
"Most people think that love will instantly appear," notes Dr. Lofas. "They think that a stepfamily will function like a biological family, and they say, 'I'm going to be the new father/mother.' But the kids don't want somebody new; they already have a mother or father. So stepparents need to know what their new roles entail. It's important to know the dynamics absolutely: the parent always feels conflicted in love between the new spouse and the children, and you have to work out how to manage that."
Dr. Engel also debunks the notion that a stepfamily is like a first family. "A stepparent is a support system for the parent," she explains. "Some new stepparents mistake their roles: maybe the woman wants to be the rescuing fairy godmother, or the man wants to make the kids shape up their behavior. But that's not your role