Relationship Dilemma Remedies

A Blog About Solving Common Relationship Dilemmas

Successful Stepfamilies

  • Do you wonder if your stepfamily will ever “blend”?
  • Do you know what happens in a “healthy” stepfamily?
  • How will you know when you and your family can say “we will have smoother sailing from here”?

Stepfamilies, as all families, are constantly evolving and changing.  None of them are exactly alike but healthy ones are more alike in many ways.  In this article, you will read about some of the characteristics of healthy step families.

Many of these qualities are similar to biological families. Some, however, are unique to families that have come together through a marriage where at least one of the partners already has children.

Healthy step families:

1.  Tolerate differences in ideas and desires and respect those differences along with those who hold them. There are no dictators of any sort or in any generation.  Certainly, there are leaders and adults who are responsible for overall family life, which sometimes involve unpopular decisions, but they recognize the importance of collaboration and respect.

Click here to read the rest of the article on the hallmarks of successful blended families.

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March 28, 2011 Posted by | Blended family, Remarried family, Step Family, Stepchildren | Leave a comment

7 Strategies for Stepdads

Step fathers often enter a new stepfamily with the expectation that they will bring order and discipline to a loving mother who is too soft with her children.  This is especially true if she has sons or teenagers.  Mothers also might also set this up as well by feeling somewhat overwhelmed with problems with their sons and having a belief that boys need a strong male to help guide them.

Some step dads seem to have it figured out from the beginning.

Todd married Sandy and instantly became a stepfather to 11 year old Tracy and 13 year old Sam.  Todd had 2 sons of his own who were 15 and 17 and often out and about with friends and events.

Tracy and Sam spent half of the time with their dad although their visits were inconsistent because of his travel and activity schedule. Sam seemed to be having the toughest time with these transitions.  This was only aggravated by his A.D.H.D. diagnosis which caused struggles both at school and at home.

Todd was able to see the big picture with the children and recognize why they had some of the problems that they did.  He knew that transitions were difficult and their father was having a hard time with some aspects of his personal life.  Sam’s attention deficit really called for consistency so Todd worked with Sandy and they both talked with Sam’s dad to come up with a plan that was best for the children.

Todd took things slowly.  He encouraged Sandy, as she handled most of the discipline with her children, while just finding ways to build a relationship with Tracy and Sam.  He offered to take them to school, fix lunches and showed up and cheered them on for school activities.

Times were rough at the start but Todd was able to keep the whole picture in perspective.  His sense of humor, patience and dedication to Sandy, along with a positive vision for the success of their family eventually succeeded.

Click here to read the 7 strategies for successful stepfathers.

March 17, 2011 Posted by | Blended family, Remarried family, Step Family, Stepchildren, Stepdads | 2 Comments

10 Strategies for Stepmothers It is Possible, But Not Easy, to be Successful as a Stepmother

Stepmothers start off with hills to climb.

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word, “stepmother”?  Evil? Wicked?  Mean?

More people think of Cinderella’s and Snow White’s stepmothers then Carol Brady of the Brady Bunch.  Hard to get a break when you start off in a tough space.

Sometimes women who are stepmothers start off on the wrong foot as well.  They may have unrealistic expectations for their new family and try too hard to create a close family long before the children are ready.  Disappointment and frustration with these new children, along with what is often a very unclear role definition, may make it hard to find a stepmother to really find her place in this family.

Stepmothers often assume and, it is assumed, that they will handle much of the day-to-day parenting.  What a job to handle right out of the starting gate!

Attempts to discipline and handle problems are met with resentment and challenge, sometimes not supported by the natural parent, and can lead to many hard times and hurt feelings.

Being a stepmother to her husband’s daughter has its own special challenges.  It can be extremely emotionally complicated when there is more than one female who wants a man’s attention, not to mention tension between and within mothers, stepmothers and daughters.

Click here to read the 10 strategies for successful stepmothers.

March 8, 2011 Posted by | Blended family, Remarried family, Step Family, Stepchildren, Stepmothers | Leave a comment

Blended Family, Stepfamily, Remarried Family or Married with Baggage Family?

Do you live in one of these constellations?  If so, what do you call yourselves?

What do you call the person who is married to your parent?

How do you refer to your spouse’s children?

What you call yourselves affects the way that you relate to others in your family.

Think about it.  The term “blended family” has problems of its own.  The dictionary definition of blending is “to create a harmonious effect or result” and in many remarried families, harmony might not be noticed very often at all!  It is extremely difficult for many families to “blend”.  Relationships are complicated and feelings, history and loyalties make blending impossible for a large percentage of stepfamilies.

The term, “stepfamily” tends to have negative or evil connotations for sure.  How would you describe one of the most famous stepfamilies … Cinderella’s family?  Most people automatically think of wicked stepmothers and stepsisters.

Remarried family numbers are growing.  In a nationwide Pew research study released recently, 42 percent of 2,700 adults polled said that they had at least one step-relative. Three in 10 have stepsiblings or half-siblings, 18 percent have a living stepparent, and 13 percent have at least one stepchild.

More of these newly constituted families also come from single adults with children who had previous relationships but never married.

Unrealistic expectations are common.

Setting unrealistic expectations, which the idea of “blending” seems to do, invites family members to expect that everyone will get along, like, and maybe even love each other … and be as happy as the two adults who fell in love and married.

The divorce rate for stepfamilies with children at home is higher than for any other marriages.  Living with children who are not your own is difficult.  Add to the mix those children who may still be struggling with their parents’ divorce, teen age years or other situations and you have a mix that can be extremely difficult.

It can take years to for stepfamilies to form the emotional bonds taken for granted in nuclear families and stepparents have to accept and respect that these connections take a long time.

Different parenting styles are enhanced in stepfamilies.

In nuclear families, parents often have different styles of parenting which may cause problems.  In stepfamilies, the differences are intensified as each tries to employ their own style of parenting on the children in the family.  The stress and tension that this causes can reverberate in all aspects of a couple’s relationship.

There are some tips for step families that will help families develop calmer and respectful ways of being together.  The most important of these are to

  • go slowly,
  • be patient,
  • have a good sense of humor and
  • look for and highlight any positive changes.

In future blog entries, I will share some tips for step families and step family members, step moms, dads, children and couples.  I also invite those of you who live in step families and have had success in blending, to share your stories and tips.

Read more of our advice for step families now on our Counseling Relationships Online website.

February 27, 2011 Posted by | Blended family, Remarried family, Step Family | Leave a comment