Making healthy stepfamilies


Perhaps the best advice comes from the parents and stepparents who have made it work! In a study by Duhl5 families that have succeeded in creating a healthy remarriage and developing strong bonds with children gave the following advice to people embarking on this journey of family-making:

  1. Go slow. Take time. Settle your old marriage (divorce) before you start a new one. Accept the need for continual involvement of parts of the old family with the new. Help children maintain relationships with biological parents.
  2. Stepparents should try for mutual courtesy, but not expect a child's love. Respect the special bond between biological parent and child.
  3. Communicate, negotiate compromise, and accept what cannot be changed.

In the end, fathering and mothering are a result of the time and effort we put into it. It is true that anyone can be a biological parent. But we all know of far too many cases where there are natural parents but no true parenting. Stepparenting is always a conscious choice, whereby biological parenthood may be accidental. Wherever there is a choice to bring forth life, or be involved in intimate relationship to developing children, we must remember that it is not the children who have asked to be born or to "become married."

Our children deserve our superior effort at understanding what is in their best interest, especially when feelings and struggles are intense, as they often are in the transition to a remarried family constellation. And it is a parents' job to be able to consider the needs of the child and expect to put them first when appropriate. This is the nature of parenthood. Whether you come by it biologically or through marriage, parenthood requires maturity.

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