Making healthy stepfamilies

Establish satisfying rituals

Every family develops its' own culture. This gives members a sense of belonging to an intimate group. Holiday rituals can be developed that are unique to the present constellation. For example, a mother of two children marries a Jewish man. Chanuka celebrations might be added to Christmas, and the children learn new rituals and philosophies for living. Other elements, like specific kinds of jokes or well-intentioned humor can also go a long way in weaving a family together. Be open to the unique characteristics and pleasures that develop naturally and spontaneously between family members. Humor is a powerfully bonding experience. Finding ways to laugh together will go along way towards establishing a sense of belonging. Humor can be a form of intimacy, as sharing fun builds relationships in which people tend to seek each other out.

Separate but cooperative households which involve ex-spouses/biological parents

Supporting children's relationship to their biological parent who does not live in the stepfamily is important to healthy development. Keeping these situations separate will decrease chances for conflict with children being caught in the crossfire.

There are situations that are not ideal but can be carefully managed to bring out cooperation and there are situations that experts recommend against for co-custody which may not allow for cooperation. In these more extreme cases (mental imbalance, parental dysfunction, or severe child rearing conflict) family researchers recommend decreased contact and no joint custody. However in the ideal, often with professional help, parents are able to get over past hurts and work in the agreed best interest of the children.

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