Making healthy stepfamilies

And very often natural parents share fantasies of the perfect family union, pressuring spouses to love children they do not even really know yet, or expecting a stepparent to discipline a child before an appropriate affection has grown between the two. Natural parents can play an important role in supporting the stepparent appropriately, including being understanding of the frustration this role can hold, particularly in the first two years of the new marriage. Pacing the role that a stepparent takes on in the family to match realistically with the development of the relationship between stepparent and child will go along way towards developing a positive relationship.

Because more than 50 percent of remarriages end in divorce, we can assume that information about the very complex process of blending families is not well known. Being able to identify common pitfalls, predictable feelings and characteristics of successful remarried families will elucidate a more viable and realistic vision.

In order to better understand this transition, let's take a look at what the characteristics of successful remarriage are according to family researchers.4

No instant love

Relationships take time. Time to grow, time to mourn the past family unit. Realistic expectations between stepparents and children must include a gradual period of getting to know one another. There is no such thing as instant intimacy. One of the most common pitfalls that stepfamilies can fall into is the expectation that "we are one big happy family." This kind of idealization is often the result of unresolved past loss and a set up for failure and disappointment. Respect one another and take the time to become acquainted. Let the relationship build security and caring on its own merit, without pressure to fill the fantasy of loving one another before a solid " like" has been established. On the average, two to three years is the time period for developing these bonds and stabilizing the new family.

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