Step families can be complicated.
Tips for strengthening step families
- Create clear, safe boundaries in step families. Clear boundaries support the building of trust.
- Possibly establish the step parent as more of a friend or counsellor.
- The biological parent remains primarily responsible for discipline until the step parent has developed solid bonds with the kids.
- Create a list of family rules. Discuss the rules with the children and post them in a prominent place. Try to be consistent.
- Keep ALL parents involved, if you can. Children will adjust better to the new family if they have access to both biological parents. Let the kids know that you and your ex-partner will continue to love them and be there for them. Be sure they know that your new partner will not be a ‘replacement’ mom or dad, but another person to love and support them.
- Communicate often and openly. Uncertainty and worry about family issues often comes from poor communication. It can be helpful give some thought to what constitutes good communication. The following can help:
- Do things together – games, sports, activities
- Address conflict positively
- Show affection to one another
- Establish an open, non-judgmental atmosphere
- Listen respectfully to each other.
- Use routines and rituals to bond step families. Creating family routines and rituals helps unite family members. This could include outings to favourite places, possibly a weekly game night, or special ways to celebrate a family birthday. Establishing regular family meals offers a great chance for you to talk to each other.
Every family is different. It will take time to adjust to the different ways that the people in your new family do things.
Couple counselling can be helpful if:
- A child directs anger upon a particular family member or openly resents a step-parent or parent
- A step-parent or parent openly favors one child over another
- Members of the family derive no pleasure from usually enjoyable activities such as school, working, playing, or being with friends and family.
Contact Phillipa Bruce for counselling for young people.