The Dynamics of Stepfamilies
"It's important not to diminish the biological, non-residential parent in any way," Messinger says. "The children have a right to that parent's love." Ex-spouses will still be linked to each other via their children
Engel says the children might feel like they're being replaced by a stepparent. "Teens may have become more mature in a single-parent family, and had more responsibility looking after things," she adds. "But the stepparent may make them feel demoted. When the adult steps in, they might feel as if they've lost power. So the child will strike out, and the circumstance, not the adult, is to blame.
"Understand that the hostility may not be personal," she continues. "The children may feel that they're losing their parent. It's very important to make time for parents to be alone with their own children, to show that they're not abandoned; meanwhile, stepparents should build a history of common interests and create some one-on-one time, too." A common mistake is to assume the family must do everything together, she adds. "Kids need time with friends and their natural relatives. There's no problem with the father going away with his own children on a trip, for example. Everybody can get along by combining and compromising interests."
Don't let either your devotion to your own children or getting to know your spouse's let you forget that you have a new spouse, too. Some stepfamilies sacrifice their marriages for the kids' sake. "There's an old joke that stepparents don't have their honeymoon until the end of the marriage
Because there are so many different types of stepfamilies, what works for others won't necessarily work for you. "There simply isn't one model that works in every situation," Dr. Marshall admits. "You can't teach a course in it, like with first-time parenting, because the issues aren't as predictable. There's a world of difference between a stepfamily with one three-year-old and one with four teens from different families." It's your and your spouse's responsibility to write a script for your own situation. If you can't, enlist the help of a counselor