Although there is no exact science to stepparenting or any kind of parenting for that matter, parents who take the time to read the research are usually better off than those who enter into a stepfamily unprepared.
When I find information and tools that I really think will help people, I like to pass it on. This information is no exception. It was given to me by my two colleagues, Judy Johnson and Becky Van Valin, both licensed psychotherapists.
- Stepfamily integration occurs quickly.
- A stepfamily is the same as a first marriage family.
- Love occurs instantly.
- Stepmothers are wicked.
- Children whose parents divorce and remarry are damaged permanently.
- It helps children to withdraw from their non-custodial parent.
- Remarriages following a death go more smoothly than those occurring after a divorce.
Source: Stepping Together, by John and Emily Visher
Practical Stepparenting Strategies
- Leave the disciplining to the natural parent and support this parent behind the scenes. When a respectful relationship has formed between you and your stepchild, then you can share the disciplinary role with your partner.
- Allow each child to have a voice in the family. The child who can express needs and wants, who knows his or her opinion is heard and valued (whether it is honored by action or not), is far less likely to generate excessive friction.
- Children want to feel that they are trusted. Finding ways to send this message will be extremely important.
- Don’t push the kids into uncomfortable relationships with one another. Never force them to love each other. Expect them to at least treat each other as well as they would treat a neighbor.
- Family members must learn to respect each other’s privacy and personal space. Personal belongings should not be touched without permission.
- Individuality is important. Refrain from trying to “fix” each other and make every effort to let irritations slide by. Model for your family how to appreciate each person’s strengths, abilities, and personalities.
- Be “uncontrollable” – that is, be a parent whose choices aren’t dictated by your child’s emotional responses.
- Have regularly scheduled family meetings. Allow all family member an opportunity to make suggestions for the family. Adults need to be careful not to dominate with an agenda or with solutions to problems.
- Don’t expect everyone to love each other and get along right away. Everyone needs time to adjust, and love is built on kindness, compassion, patience, and respect.
Three Basic Needs of All People
- To belong
- To be loved
- To have some control over their life
I really hope that this helps some of you out there who are trying to adjust to your new blended family. Thank you again to Judy Johnson and Becky Van Valin from Eden Counseling Center for sending this information my way.
If you have any effective stepparenting tips, please do tell. There are many new stepparents who want to parent well, but are walking in uncharted territory.