Step Families

May 4, 2008 – 7:45 pm

Step Families and the Extended FamilyIntroducing a new partner to your children is often difficult, but it is much more difficult if the partner has children too. In the initial period things may seem to be going well as shared outings and treats are enjoyed but this may not last once the novelty has worn off.

Issues that affect the harmony in stepfamilies are usually:

Behaviour

Children who have been through the trauma of a family break-up may exhibit out of character behaviour including anger, resentment, jealousy, tamper tantrums, seeming withdrawn, depressed or disrespectful. This makes acceptance of them more difficult for your new partner. Try to be tolerant and patient and listen to how they are feeling, but establish clear boundaries about what behaviour is and is not acceptable.

Also, bear in mind that children who have spent a long period time with a single parent will feel resentful about having to share you with your new partner.

Discipline

You and your new partner may have different ways of bringing up children. Exerting authority over someone else’s children can be tricky and you may feel uncomfortable when your partner tries to discipline your children. Talk this through with them openly, agree who is to do what and stick to it. The same rules apply to your treatment of your partner’s children too.

Ex-partner

Your ex-partner may feel resentful about his/her children meeting and bonding with your new partner (and you may feel the same when your ex introduces a new mate). This puts children in a very difficult position as they are unsure where their loyalties lie. Never say bad things about your ex-partner to your children; always remember, children will adjust much better if they can maintain a good relationship with both natural parents. A step-parent can, at best, be seen as an additional parent (not a replacement) but don’t rush things. Initially they may be seen like an aunt or uncle, so allow the children to develop the relationship in their own time. The fact that you love your new partner does not mean that your children will automatically feel the same.

Step Siblings

Allow the children to sort out the relationships themselves as far as possible and be prepared for squabbles and arguments as each child finds his/her own way of relating to the new family members.

Quality Time

No matter how much children like their step-parent, they always want to be able to spend some time, however small, alone with their natural parent. It is important to make time for this and to allow your partner to do the same with their children.

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