M.A., M.Th., E.C.P., U.K.C.P.
Systemic and Family Psychotherapist
EMDR Therapist (for trauma)
A consequence of the increasing numbers of couple relationships that break down and the tendency of the separated to form new relationships, is the increasing numbers of children living in stepfamilies. Although stepfamilies have much in common with families comprised of two parents and their own offspring, there are significant differences which, if ignored, create considerable difficulties and even lead to the dissolution of a stepfamily.
In the early days, a major challenge is to establish a good relationship between the children of one partner and the new partner or “stepparent”. Whether or not the new partner is married to the children’s parent, the likelihood is that he or she will need to take on a parental role. This can be tricky because the children may not accept the new partner in this role.
Discipline is a particular issue, especially with older children who may not acknowledge the authority of the new stepparent. This problem needs to be handled with tact and diplomacy. The situation is compounded when both partners have children.
Another major challenge is the disruptive effect of contact visits, especially at weekends. Frequently children go back and forth between households at regular intervals, often moving between different groups of full, half or step siblings. This means each household having to adjust to changes of personnel every week or two and the strains are made worse if the children do not get on with each other.
A complicating factor may also be the attitude of the ex-partner, especially if he or she refuses to accept the new relationship. Very often such parents express their rage by making it difficult for the new couple and the children to function as a family unit.
All in all, the situation is fraught with potential problems. Fortunately, many couples negotiate these challenges successfully. But if you are finding it a struggle, I can provide you with a safe place to talk to your current partner, your ex-partner, your children or your partner’s children about the problems you are all facing. Often having the chance to share unexpressed feelings and to talk through unresolved difficulties enables families to develop new helpful strategies to make their lives together more manageable.