Remember the TV sitcom, “The Brady Bunch”? Mom and three girls meet dad and three boys to live mostly happily ever after (with the help of Alice, the housekeeper). That plot-line made living in a stepfamily look like a piece of cake. Real stepfamilies don’t find life together to be so easy. They learn it takes patience, wisdom, and lots of work to have successful stepfamily life.
When a first marriage ends, it is normal to say as you grieve and recover, “Next time I’m going to do this right. I’ve learned from my mistakes.”
But second marriages are not like first marriages. They come with kids, ex’s, child support and visitation schedules, wounds as well as learnings from first marriages, and all the particulars of trying to make a new family work. It takes a different set of skills to make stepfamilies successful. On October 5 IDEALS will have a special stepfamily workshop. At this workshop participants will learn 10 research-based skills for successful stepfamily living.
Here is one of the skills: Each parent should spend some time each week with his or her biological child. As stepfamilies form, the new couple needs and wants to spend time together. That’s important! It is important to also spend quality, individual time with a new stepchild. This helps you get to know each other so trust can develop. BUT it is also important for a parent to spend quality, individual time with his or her own child. Otherwise the child will feel like he or she has been traded in on a new family. That feeling will lead to resentment and behaviors that show the resulting distress. A simple fix is to maintain individual quality time.
If you would like to know more hints for making successful stepfamilies, visit our workshop page to learn more about the workshop.
Knowing what makes a successful stepfamily is the first step to having one!
-Mary Ortwein, Director, LMFT