Stepfamilies - some issues and myths to consider
Possible events that can make stepfamilies more
· At least one partner has experienced marriage and parenthood before or a partner who is a parent has never been married
· Partners in stepfamilies who have never married or lived with a partner are unaccustomed to family life (apart from their family of origin)
· Adults and children come into the relationship at the outset
· The parent and stepparent often do not have the time together alone before having children live with them.
· Stepparents have to live, or care for and/or relate to stepchildren with whom they have no “history”. There is a lack of bonding.
· Single-parent family life often precedes stepfamily life.
· There is at least one “intruder” in the stepfamily unit.
· Children often lose contact with a parent from the previous family – sometimes this is a loss of daily contact, other times it is for ever.
· Children often have two homes with two sets of rules, conditions, disciplines etc.
· Visiting children/stepchildren have to be accommodated in the stepfamily from time-to-time.
· Family members may experience relocation of home, school, job, activities etc.
· New responsibilities may emerge.
· Unfinished business from a past marriage (anger, grief, guilt, anxiety) can come into a stepfamily.
· Suspicion and lack of trust between stepparent and stepchildren may exist.
· Surnames of children can be different and create a sense of not belonging.
· There are more people, all at once, having to get used to each other.
· There is no “legal” relationship between stepparent and stepchild.
· Socioeconomic conditions might change; money can be tight
· Sibling order might change so the oldest, for example, now could be a middle child
· There might be less space or territory for each person
· At least one person has to adjust to living in a different home – with different family rules, etc
Some "myths” about Stepfamilies
· A stepfamily is created instantly
· Stepfamily members can function like biological families
· All stepfamily members will, given time, love one another
· Relating to stepchildren is the same as relating to biological children
· All the children in a stepfamily will automatically get on together.
· Part time stepfamilies where children “visit” have it easier than full time stepfamilies where children “live in”
· The stepfamily is headed by a wicked stepmother or cruel stepfather
· Stepfamilies formed after the death of a partner have fewer problems that those formed after divorce or separation.
· If stepchildren are treated kindly by their stepparent, they will always respond well.
· The couple can love one another so much that problems creating a stepfamily will be easily overcome
· Stepfamilies are better off because parents have learned from their mistakes in the first marriages/couple relationship.