As hard as divorce can be on the family, transitioning into a step family can be just as challenging. New couples have to consider living arrangements, family finances, and resolving issues or concerns from the previous marriage. Additionally, immersing children into a new environment can also be challenging. Parents will have to navigate new and old parenting techniques with their new spouse, as well as developing relationships with new children.
It takes time for all the family members to get to know each other and build positive relationships. Step children who don’t live full time with the step family will take longer to adjust. For example, step children visiting only once or twice a month will have a harder transition because they will not be getting much one-on-one time.
While the transition into a new family may be challenging, there are steps you can take to increase the likelihood of successful integration and family harmony.
- Have realistic expectations – A family marriage takes time and patience. All family members need time to get to know each other before they feel comfortable. Thinking that family integration will be instant is not true. On the other hand, problems that seen unsolvable and never ending are also not true.
- Strengthen the couple relationship – The biological parent may sometimes feel “in the middle” or responsible for the success of the stepfamily’s integration. Such feelings of singular responsibility can undermine the family’s development. Staying open with your partner and having positive communication helps.
- Recognize that children belong to two households – Stepchildren may wonder where they belong. When both families work together to establish parenting partnership and clearly communicate rules and consequences, kids have a better chance of adjusting.
- Develop new roles – In the initial stages of stepfamily integration, new parents should focus on befriending the stepchildren while leaving discipline to the biological parents.
Finding the right therapist is a valuable and important step to successfully build and aid your new family. With the right guidance from experienced Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs), stepfamilies have the potential to blend much more quickly and have lasting benefits. Get in touch with one of Counseling California’s trained MFTs for relationship and family support.