Tips for Step Parents and Step Children

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Almost every day there are step parents and their step kids who are at their wits end with one another. They argue and even violently fight because each does not understand what role they are to play in the family.

Many times the step child may feel betrayed by their parent replacing the other parent with this strange person. The parent may have died or their parents have gotten a divorce. The new step parent, who may pickup on the negative emotions of the child, does not know what role they can play with their spouses child.

Finding the right things to say and do in as a step-parent is very difficult. The internet offers some good suggestions. Much of the information is very clinical and boring but it can give a lot of insight. There are no guarantees or magic solutions. What will work for one family is totally wrong for another. This page gives every stepfamily some ideas which may help. As always, if a stepfamily is having a lot of problems, we recommend they seek professional counseling. There is no substitute for the experience of a trained professional who has learned what works in different and difficult situations.

We ask that you take your time reading the topics below and investigate the websites we suggest. As always we have researched each site to make sure it is family friendly. Feel free to print out each of these topics in order to refer back to them later.


Let this turnabout truth serve as a metaphor for what is now coming to light about stepfamilies. They are certainly more complex than first-marriage families--but they are also richer. New information about what really goes on, and what goes wrong, in stepfamilies will definitely change the way you think about them. It also promises to change the way you think about all families.

Among the new findings:
1. Contrary to myth, stepfamilies have a high rate of success in raising healthy children. Eighty percent of the kids come out fine.
2. These step kids are resilient, and a movement to study their resilience--not just their problems--promises to help more kids succeed in any kind of family, traditional or otherwise.
3. What trips step kids up has little to do with stepfamilies per se. The biggest source of problems for kids in stepfamilies is parental conflict leftover from the first marriage.
4. A detailed understanding of the specific problems stepfamilies encounter now exists, courtesy of longitudinal research--not studies that tap just the first six months of stepfamily adjustment.
5. Stepfamilies turn out to be a gender trap--expectations about women's roles and responsibilities are at the root of many problems that develop in stepfamilies.
6. After five years, stepfamilies are more stable than first-marriage families, because second marriages are happier than first marriages. Stepfamilies experience most of their troubles in the first two years.
7. Stepfamilies are not just make-do households limping along after loss. All members experience real gains, notably the opportunity to thrive under a happier relationship.

The above is from:
http:// psychologytoday.com/articles/ pto-19940501-000019.html


Strategies for Step Parents
by Gigi Cook

If parenting is the hardest job in the world then step parenting must be close to impossible! Statistics show that half of all Americans will be in a step relationship at one point in their lifetime. What is the secret to great step relationships? Many times putting simple daily principles into practice over time will produce the results you are looking for.

Here are 10 tips to help you become a successful step parent:

1. Understand the differences between step families and first families.
Step families are formed out of a loss from death or divorce, resulting in the dissolution of the first family. Children, at any age, may assume their step family will be a re-creation of their first family, often resulting in expectations impossible to fulfill. The key to re-defining "family" is to develop an identity as a group. Hobbies and interests encourage bonding. Whether it is rock collecting, traveling, or Sunday get-togethers, develop a unique identity for your group.

2. Don't expect an instant relationship.
While you cannot expect instant attachment or love, you can expect to be treated respectfully. Model respectful behavior towards your step children and let them see you set the example. Encourage trust by never making negative comments about the biological parent or siblings around your step children.

3. Discipline by the biology book.
When it comes to discipline for step children, biology is the key!! Once you and your spouse have set the rules in your home, let the biological parent take the lead, especially with older children. If the biological parent is absent and the step parent must discipline, take the position of "adult in charge," not parent.

4. Get the "You're Not My Parent" conversation out of the way quick!
No matter the age, this topic is inevitable. When it happens, be confident and clear about who you ARE. You may consider actually saying: "You're right; I'm not your parent. You have a mom and a dad and I do not intend to replace them." If the child has overstepped one of the rules and the biological parent is unavailable to handle the situation, you may need to add, "At the moment, I am the adult in charge. Here is the rule you are expected to keep in this house."

5. Keep a united front up front. When problems arise the kids need to see you and your spouse in agreement. Develop an expected code of behavior for the entire household that applies to ALL children present. If you and your spouse are having a disagreement over discipline, go for a walk and air your differences. But when the kids are watching…you two are one!!

6. Carve out one-on-one time with each child.
While creating a group identity is key to becoming a family, one-on-one time is key for developing a good relationship with your step child. Find time to spend alone together. Where possible, get yourself into their world. Consider volunteering on your step child's sports team or rearrange your schedule to drive to or from school. Drive time in the car can be a good time to communicate.

7. Avoid creating competition.
Your biological children crave your undivided attention and it is important to spend special time with them. Help your step children to avoid feeling left out by keeping your special times with biological children low key. Don't make a big deal out of what you do when the step kids are away.

8. Make a daily attitude check.
When it comes to your step kids, become the poster person for a positive attitude!! Every day, make a conscious effort to forgive the small hurts that eventually add up to a big grudge. No matter how stressful the situation gets, never resort to criticism or sarcasm when communicating with your step children.

9. Avoid the split personality approach to step parenting!
Scheduling step life can be brutal. Two days here, one night there; the whole family can end up with a spilt personality! Remember, your kids may be important members of two households. When schedules clash, put the child's needs first even if it means extra driving, inconvenient timing, or a missed opportunity for you. Your child will remember your cooperative attitude more than anything else.

10. Keep the success of your marriage in focus.
The most vulnerable relationship in the house is your marriage relationship. It may feel selfish at times, but do whatever it takes to keep your marriage in good shape. Statistics show one of the main causes for divorce in step families is the stress of step parenting. Set aside "alone time" with your spouse and guard that time carefully.

The above is from:
http://www. flc.org/hfl/parenting/stepparents. htm


Stepfamilies and Co-Parenting

New stepfamilies face many challenges. As with any achievement, developing good stepfamily relationships requires a lot of effort. Stepfamily members have each experienced losses and face complicated adjustments to the new family situation.

The members of the new blended family need to build strong bonds among themselves through: 
* acknowledging and mourning their losses
* developing new skills in making decisions as a family
* fostering and strengthening new relationships between parents, stepparent and stepchild, and stepsiblings 
* supporting one another 
* maintaining and nurturing original parent-child relationships

While facing these issues may be difficult, most stepfamilies do work out their problems. Stepfamilies often use grandparents (or other family), clergy, support groups, and other community-based programs to help with the adjustments.

Parents should consider a psychiatric evaluation for their child when they exhibit strong feelings of being: 
* alone dealing with the losses 
* torn between two parents or two households 
* excluded 
* isolated by feelings of guilt and anger 
* unsure about what is right 
* very uncomfortable with any member of the original family or stepfamily

In addition, if parents observe that the following signs are lasting or persistent, then they should consider a psychological evaluation for the child/family:
* child vents/directs anger upon a particular family member or openly resents a stepparent or parent 
* one of the parents suffers from great stress and is unable to help with the child's increased need 
* a stepparent or parent openly favors one of the children 
* discipline of a child is only left to the parent rather than involving both the stepparent and parent; or 
* members of the family derive no enjoyment from usual pleasurable activities (i.e. learning, going to school, working, playing or being with friends and family)

Most stepfamilies, when given the necessary time to work on developing their own traditions and to form new relationships, can provide emotionally rich and lasting relationships for the adults, and help the children develop the self-esteem and strength to enjoy the challenges of life.

Information provided by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Rights of Children of Divorce

1. Continue to love both parents without guilt or disapproval (subtle or overt) by either paren t or other relatives.

2. Be repeatedly reassured that the divorce is not their fault.

3. Be reassured they are safe and their needs will be provided.

4. Have a special place for their own belongings at both parent's residences.

5. Visit both parents regardless of what the adults in the situation feel, and regardless of convenience, or money situations.

6. Express anger and sadness in their own way, according to age and personality (not have to give justification for their feelings or have to cope with trying to be talked out of their feelings by adults).

7. Not be messengers between parents; not to carry notes, legal papers, money or requests between parents.

8. Not make adult decisions, including where they will live, where and when they will be picked up or dropped off, or who is to blame.

9. Love as many people as they choose without being made to feel guilty or disloyal. (Loving and being loved by many people is good for children; there is not a limit on the number of people a child can love.)

10. Continue to be kids -- i.e. not take on adult duties and responsibilities or become a parent's special confidant, companion or comforter (i.e. not to hear repeatedly about financial problems or relationship difficulties).

11. Stay in contact with relatives, including grandparents and special family friends.

12. Choose to spend at least one week a year living apart from their custodial parent.

13. Not be on an airplane, train or bus on major holidays for the convenience of adults.

14. Have teachers and school informed about the new status of their family.

15. Have time with each parent doing activities that create a sense of closeness and special memories.

16. Have a daily and weekly routine that is predictable and can be verified by looking at a schedule on a calendar in a system understandable to the child. (For instance: a green line represents the scheduled time with dad, and a purple line represents the scheduled time with mom, etc.)

17. Participate in sports, special classes or clubs that support their unique interests, and have adults that will get them to these events, on time without guilt or shame.

18. Contact the absent parent and have phone conversations without eavesdropping or tape-recording.

19. Ask questions and have them answered respectfully with age-appropriate answers that do not include blaming or belittlement's of anyone.

20. Be exposed to both parents' religious ideas (without shame), hobbies, interests and tastes in food.

21. Have consistent and predictable boundaries in each home. (Although the rules in each house may differ significantly, each parent's set of rules needs to be predictable within their household.)

22. Be protected from hearing adult arguments and disputes.

23. Have parents communicate (even if only in writing) about their medical treatment, psychological treatment, educational issues, accidents and illnesses.

24. Not be interrogated upon return from the other parent's home or asked to spy in the other parent's home.

25. Own pictures of both parents.

26. Choose to talk with a special adult about their concerns and issues (counselor, therapist or special friend).

The above is from:
http:// www.focusas.com/Stepfamily.html


10 tips for new step parents

Step-families are at greater risk of breaking apart than any other family unit but the following ten tips aim to help sidestep a few elephant traps

Sixty per cent of partnerships involving children from previous unions will fail - a significantly higher percentage than marriages without stepchildren.

Like conventional biological parenting, there are no set rules and no guarantees for ensuring a contented parent-child relationship.

If parenting is said to be the most difficult job in the world, then step-parenting must often feel if it is close to impossible.

1. Acknowledge the children’s loss

All step-families are created out of loss from death or divorce. Children, of all ages, may not have come to terms with this and may well have unreasonable expectations of a ‘recreated’ family. Most experts agree that the answer is to redefine the meaning of ‘family’ by developing an identity as a group. Focus on shared interests and pursue new ones.

2. Don’t expect miracles

Instant attachments with step children are rare, and immediate emotional bonding is even rarer. There will be uncertainty and suspicion on both sides, so show respect for their boundaries and expect the same in return.

3. Dealing with the “You’re Not My Real Parent” situation

This conversation is inevitable, so get it out of the way quickly. Be clear and confident about who you are and admit what you and the child already know by saying something like: “You’re right. And I don’t intend to replace your Mum/Dad. But I do expect you to follow the rules when I’m the adult in charge.”

4. Agree ground rules with your spouse

It might be stating the obvious, but it is vital to create a plan for parenting. For example, to what extent do you have to take into consideration the views of your spouse’s ex when exercising authority? Set the rules and know where you stand.

5. Discipline by biology

Once the rules have been agreed, let the natural parent take the lead in exercising discipline wherever possible. Not only is it more likely to work, it will help to avoid a build-up of resentment.

6. Have family meetings to resolve problems

When difficulties arise, get the family together to talk openly about how they might be resolved. Children of all ages resent the notion that they have no voice and are not being listened to.

7. Stay united

Never take opposing sides when problems arise, at least not in front of the children. You must present a united front.

8. Create new traditions

New families have no traditions, so work on building a history of shared memories and experiences. Don’t ignore old traditions, but don’t let them prevent the establishment of new ones.

9. Ensure one-on-one time

Find time to spend alone with each step child. While creating a group identity is important, so is building a personal relationship with each child. Try to ensure that your time is shared equally.

10. Don’t ignore your own relationship

Your marriage is the most vulnerable relationship in the family. Don’t overlook the importance of keeping it healthy, both for you and the children. And guard your private moments together carefully.

The above is from:
http://www.saga.co.uk/ magazine/relationships/ family/10TipsForNewStepParents.as


How Age Affects a Child's Reaction to Step-Families

HYG-5217-96

When two people marry, each needs to be willing to compromise. When one or both of those people bring with them dependent children, those compromises become more complicated. Families must decide whether they will just share living space or if they will blend into a new family unit. Some families find blending easy. For others, it is very difficult. Studies show the age of children involved in blending is important. Knowing typical reactions and thoughts of different ages may help us know how to handle tensions. Following are some typical reactions and thoughts of children at different ages.

Preschoolers
Preschoolers believe in magic! For them, divorce is seldom final. Because they believe their family may one day be reunited, remarriage may be a threat. Many preschoolers carry guilt with thoughts such as, "Daddy left because I didn't make my bed," or, "If I had helped more Mommy would not have gone away." Parents can help by being sensitive to these feelings, frequently reassuring and listening to their preschool-aged children. Know, however, that their feelings are common and not easily dispelled. Do not think because you say it once a preschooler believes it. Repeated reassurance that you love the child is important.

On the other side, preschoolers adjust relatively easily to having two homes and two sets of rules. Their view of time is very limited-to them, "forever" is "tomorrow." They may fear being abandoned and become concerned about losing the other parent in remarriage. As long as they are reassured of the love of both parents, they handle most changes fairly well.

Let the child know it is okay to love the step-parent. However, do not insist on immediate love. Assure them it is possible to love both parents and step-parents. It is harmful to make a preschooler (or any child) choose between important people in their lives.

School-Age Children (6-10)
School-age children also feel a great sense of guilt over a divorce. This feeling may be seen in failures at school or other activities. These children frequently feel as if everything is out of control. Try to give them some control of their personal lives. Let them choose what clothes and hairstyles to wear, or how their rooms are arranged and kept. If the mess becomes overwhelming, set standards and a deadline for the youngster to clean it up.

Remarriage reinforces that the natural parents will not get back together. This may restart the grieving process and cause children to appear disorganized or lazy. Giving them opportunities to talk about feelings. Their loss is important.

Preteens (11-13)
Keep in mind that adolescence is the time when children begin to pull away from the family. They are beginning to test their independence. They still need the security of knowing that the family is there for support when they need it, however. This is a trying time for most families. If children have been encouraged to make their own decisions and live with the consequences, good or bad, they will have less need to test the system. Most youngsters are interested in the benefits of adulthood but try to ignore the responsibilities. Part of a parent's job at this stage is to help children think through what might happen if various actions are taken. Do not try to make their decisions. This may encourage them to take a less acceptable alternative just to show their independence. Instead, give them options and let them choose. Then, let natural consequences follow. An allowance at this time should be coupled with a clear understanding of what it covers. Children who decide they need more money may need to find a job to earn the difference, or set priorities on where to spend their money.

Teens (13-18)
Although teens are becoming aware of their sexuality, they tend to see their parents as nonsexual. The parents' honeymoon period may be uncomfortable for teens and adolescents, particularly if the couple is affectionate in their presence.

In single-parent families, many teens and adolescents take on adult roles. They become part of the decision making and are frequently given responsibility for themselves and siblings. This encourages them to think of themselves as adults. Many of these youngsters will resent giving up these rights and, to some degree, responsibilities when a parent remarries. Open, honest communication can help pinpoint some of those tasks they want to continue. You may want to develop ways to include these youngsters in decisions which affect them as well.

With both teens and preteens, you may find their search for their identities will lead them to spend more time with the noncustodial parent. Be flexible and let these young people have more say in how their time is spent.

Conclusion
Keep normal child development trends in mind to help you decide how to deal with problems that arise at various times.

Is this a normal stage for this age child or is a result of the stepfamily? Many times concerns of stepfamilies are in fact normal sibling rivalries or normal steps which are common to all children. Listening to the youngsters and involving them in decisions which involve them should encourage cooperation and understanding.

Children can feel guilt at any age. They think that if they had done something differently the family would still be together. Poor self-esteem may also be a concern. Some children feel, "If my own parent did not love me, how could anyone else?"

Children may also revert to younger behaviors during times of trauma, such as divorce, death, or remarriage. For example, bed-wetting or thumb-sucking may occur. These should work themselves out in a couple of months. If not, you may want to look for other reasons, such as overindulgence, to make up for the loss, feelings of insecurity, or other pressures in their lives.

Boys tend to take changes harder than girls. They take longer to adjust and show more disruptive behaviors. Patience and discussion can help.

The above is from:
http://ohioline. osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/5217.html


Strategies for Step Parents
Here are 10 tips to help you become a successful step parent:. Understand the differences between step families and first families. ...
http://www.flc.org/hfl/ parenting/stepparents.htm

APA Help Center - Family & Relationships - "Making Stepfamilies Work"
Both boys and girls in stepfamilies have reported that they prefer verbal affection, such as praises or compliments, rather than physical closeness,
http://www.apahelpcenter. org/articles/article.php?id=41

Excite UK - Home - Family - Parenting - Step Parents
All the information on Step Parents: Magazines and E-zines. ... Forum - Usenet alt.support.step-parents. Help build the largest human-edited directory of
http://www.excite.co.uk/ directory/Home/Family/ Parenting/Step_Parents

Single Parents - Help, Support, and Encouragement for Single Parents
A comprehensive resource for single parents, including practical information and support for every step of the journey. Read up-do-date, relevant articles
http://www.singleparents. about.com/

After the wedding: stepparents and blended families.
Stepparents' web for your stepchild: Blended families or people who are soon to become stepparents. ... Other stepparents seek advice. Can you help them?
http://www.cyberparent. com/step/

Psychology Today: Lessons from stepfamilies
Studies stepfamilies, which turn out to be living laboratories for what it takes to create successful relationships. Why stepfamilies provide lessons for
http://www.psychologytoday. com/articles/pto-19940501- 000019.html

Step-Carefully
We help couples learn about divorce recovery, couple communication problems, relationships between stepparents and stepchildren (and between biological
http://www.stepcarefully.com/

Open Directory - Home: Family: Parenting: Step Parents
Commitment - Advice and help for step families. ... Step Parents and Friends Message Boards - Support and friendship for all step parents.
http://www.dmoz.org/Home/ Family/Parenting/Step_Parents/

Stepping in When You Are a Step Parent
While it's understandable that you don't want to find yourself at odds with your spouse, as a concerned step-parent, you probably want to try to help your
http://www.aspeneducation. com/Article-steppingin.html

Stepparenting - Information resources education for step parents -
First-hand experience and advice to help new or soon-to-be stepparents. ... Stepparents need help sometimes in bonding with their stepchildren and dealing
http://www.adopting.org/ adoptions/stepparenting- information-resources-education -for-step-parents.html

Stepping Stones for Stepfamilies series
Stepping Stones for Stepfamilies-- Lesson 1: Taking Time to Think about My Stepfamily • Stepping Stones for Stepfamilies--Lesson 2: Building a Strong Couple
http://www.edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ TOPIC_PROGRAM_Stepping_Stones_ for_Stepfamilies

Commitment | Advice and Help for Step Families
Birth parents and stepparents all need to learn effective parenting skills. ... The first step to help children in a blended family feel belonging is to let
http://www.committment.com/ nelsen.html

Stepfamilies and Co-Parenting
Help your Teen Adjust to a Stepfamily ~ Guidelines for parents to provide ... Stepliving for Teens: Getting Along with Step-Parents, Parents, and Siblings
http://www.focusas.com/ Stepfamily.html

Blended Families / Stepfamilies
What plans can parents make for a blended family / stepfamily? Get tips for healthy blended families and when to seek professional help.
http://www.helpguide.org/ mental/blended_families_ stepfamilies.htm


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