Making healthy stepfamilies

Strong couples' relationship

Even though taking on certain responsibilities, particularly discipline, may take some time for a stepparent, the key to any healthy family system is the mutual love, caring and respect that the spouses share. Working through the predictable stresses of becoming a stepfamily secures your relationship. Taking time to be together is also important, as in this situation the honeymoon phase of the relationship has no doubt been curtailed. Take time to be alone and develop your bond independent of the children and parenting roles in the family. This is not a step that can be skipped! The couple relationship needs some breathing space of its' own to grow. Getting away for a weekend may be difficult with all that is going on, but it is essential to the health of your marriage.

Resolving difficult parenting issues through honest sharing and understanding will build intimacy. Just remember to be patient with the desire for change. And seek the help of a counselor to help you resolve and understand the very tumultuous feelings you will be having in building your new family system.

Satisfactory step relations develop gradually and authority must be predicated on genuine affection

Too often a stepparent expects or is expected to fill in as a full-blown parent including discipline. This may happen after children and stepparent have developed a bond of trust and caring. It also might not ever happen, particularly if the children are teenagers when the stepparent arrives on the scene. Adjust to the situation according to its' natural evolution. It is unrealistic to assume your authority will develop the same with a teenager as a young child. Respect boundaries and what has come before as well as being open to a different form of relating than your idealized interpretation of what family "should" be.

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