Stepfamilies

Let's face it: Stepparenting can be a challenge, and stepfamilies face their own unique obstacles. These strategies will help you navigate the ups and downs and enjoy your unique family.

A Lesson for Step-Moms

A Lesson for Step-Moms The stepmother-stepdaughter combination is the most difficult one that results from two families joining households. So can you imagine being the mother and stepmom of a total of five young women ranging in age from 14 to 21? That is precisely the position Margorie Engel, at the time a practicing Boston attorney, found herself in after marrying her second husband. read more

Adoption for Stepfamilies

Adoption for Stepfamilies Adoption is one area that's easier to navigate for stepfamilies than it is for non-stepfamilies. (We found an easier area! Hurrah!) Adoption after a parent has died is simplest. It can get confusing—not to mention legally and emotionally complicated—if the birth parents are both living and are either divorced or never married to each other. read more

Bonding with Your Stepchild

Bonding with Your Stepchild When people get overwhelmed (and stepparenting can certainly be an overwhelming situation), they tend to withdraw and get resentful. I used to hide in the bathroom or bedroom for long periods of time feeling all churned up inside—who were these strangers in my house? Was it my house? Part of making the transition and commitment to stepparenting involves making a firm attempt to know each of your stepkids individually, and apart from your mate. It will take time, work, and respect for the child. read more

Boy Has Crush on Stepmother

The primary objective in dealing with this crush is to make certain that this boy is not made to feel rejected, abnormal, or perverted. read more

Bringing a New Baby into a Stepfamily

Bringing a New Baby into a Stepfamily Hoorah! You've decided, or you're pregnant, or the adoption papers have been filed. What now? Who tells the ex(es)? How are you going to tell the kids? And how are your kids and stepkids going to react? read more

Building a Relationship with Your Stepchildren

Building a Relationship with Your Stepchildren Once Burnt, Twice Shy It's a challenge to build a close relationship with children who have been emotionally injured because their parents split up—yes, even if it was a long time ago. People are reactive; they learn from experience. As a stepparent, you've walked into a relationship with kids who are leery about trusting, both trusting you individually and trusting a new adult relationship. read more

Can Mom and Stepmom Homeschool Jointly?

Does the boy's natural mother have the ability and commitment to homeschool? The rewards are great, but homeschooling involves a serious commitment by a generous, loving parent. read more

Celebrating Your Victories

Celebrating Your Victories It's vital to mark milestones, victories, and accomplishments, both large and small. read more

Children's Concerns About a New Marriage

Children's Concerns About a New Marriage If the kids are expressing distress, depression, resistance, and rebellion, listen! They need to have their feelings acknowledged. Sometimes when they see that you are listening to their feelings, they feel able to listen a bit to yours. (Hey, don't count on it, but wouldn't it be lovely?) Try some active listening (discussed in Learning to Communicate With Stepchildren). It can help. read more

Common and Unrealistic Expectations About Stepfamilies

Common and Unrealistic Expectations About Stepfamilies Just as getting rid of the ingrained societal myths can be hard, so can giving up your hopes and expectations about what marriage, partnership, parenthood, and family life will be for you. "Unrealistic expectations are the biggest risk," says Emily Visher, founder of the Stepfamily Association of America. Have you ever heard yourself thinking of saying something along any of these lines? read more

Common Stepfamily Discipline Issues

Common Stepfamily Discipline Issues This section covers a few of the most common disciplinary complications of living life "in step." "You're Not My Parent!" Resentment often boils out in those four little words. You might also hear, "You're not my mom, you can't tell me what to do!" These words hurt—they're meant to. Respond with calm authority in your voice, and you'll soon hear the last of this particular plaintive cry. Here are three not-so-snappy comebacks to help arm you: read more

Communicating with Stepchildren

Communicating with Stepchildren Stepping Stones Honest communication is the only policy when it comes to the stepfamily. Withdrawing in an attempt to be self-protective will backfire on you. The family will continue its biological bond, and you'll be left out in the cold. Don't Be Wicked Don't lecture! I guarantee that if you shake your finger at a child, they will not hear what you are saying. Kids are deaf to stories with a moral. Save your breath. read more

Contrasting Temperaments in Stepfamilies

Contrasting Temperaments in Stepfamilies Some kids are just easier than others. Some combinations of adults and kids mesh better than other combinations, and it doesn't always have to do with genetic bloodlines. Steve, a high-energy, quick-to-anger type, has a hard time dealing with his bioson Martin, a quiet, thoughtful type. On the other hand, his stepdaughter Suzy (who drives her own biomom nuts with her emotional sensitivity) is a young woman he can understand. Steve and Suzy have similar temperaments, or ways of approaching the world. read more

Cross-Cultural Stepfamilies

Cross-Cultural Stepfamilies Whenever you have a relationship in a cross-cultural situation, you have to communicate effectively. Intercultural communication consultant William Sonnenschein believes that effective cross-cultural communication requires self-awareness, respect, tolerance, flexibility, empathy, patience, and humor. That's quite a list. Let's break it down: read more

Dealing with Your Adolescent Stepchild

Dealing with Your Adolescent Stepchild You can make life around your household easier if you try the following: read more

Defining Your Role as Stepparent

Defining Your Role as Stepparent You are now a parent, but how much of one? It's confusing. Are you a real parent, or should you try to just be a friend? Talk to some experts and they'll tell you to always take a secondary role to the bioparent. Others will insist that you should take a stronger position. I say that you need to decide what role to take. (I also say you need to decide. Note the change in stress.) I also say that the hard part—and the key—is knowing when to parent, and when to step out. read more

Discipline in Step-Families

It may be necessary to get all parents and step-parents involved in counseling, if discipline between step-families becomes a problem. read more

Fiance's Daughter Opposes Marriage

What can you do when your fiance's daughter opposes your marriage? read more

Finding a Home for Your Stepfamily

Finding a Home for Your Stepfamily You've got a brand new family configuration, and you're starting a brand new life. Almost everybody says, and I agree, that it's best if you can start all this freshness in a new, neutral place. When you all move to a new place, you'll have these advantages: read more

Help Me Understand ADHD

Where can a stepparent turn to gain an understanding of a child's ADHD and treatment? read more

Holiday Logistics for Stepfamilies

Holiday Logistics for Stepfamilies So who's gonna spend the holiday where? Sometimes holiday plans are predetermined by custody agreements, but sometimes there's flexibility built in. If you've got some options, discuss them with the kids and try to be flexible about their desires. Rigidity won't help. read more

Is My Son Abusing His Homeschooling Freedom?

The fact that your son is completing his assignments and turning them in each week shows that some work is being done. read more

Is My Stepdaughter's Homeschooling on Target?

The issue here is not verifying if your stepdaughter is on-target with her public-schooled peers, but rather understanding both the homeschool philosophy and how children learn. read more

Keep the Peace: Planning the Stepfamily's Holidays

Keep the Peace: Planning the Stepfamily's Holidays Deck the halls, spin the dreidel, roast the turkey, light the candles; it's holiday time! You've been through the wedding and you thought the worst was over! Now it's Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Thanksgiving, Passover, Easter (otherwise known as “the trial-by-fire holidays”), and you know the truth: It's not over, and it will never be over. Holidays are one of the most difficult transitions for stepfamilies to deal with. read more

Kids' Resistance to the Stepfamily

Kids' Resistance to the Stepfamily Visiting stepkids often have the most resistance to the stepfamily. They want to spend time with the bioparent they rarely get to see, but because they don't know you, they don't feel particularly close to you. Visiting stepkids often feel excluded from the family identity. Be sympathetic. Many shared experiences have occurred without them, so they have reasons for feeling left out. read more

Learning to Communicate with Stepchildren

Learning to Communicate with Stepchildren Soon after you move in, you may face your first big experience with stepfamily conflict. You may feel resentful or shut out, the kids may feel rejected and furious, and your Sweetie may feel utterly and completely caught in the middle. read more

Making Discipline Work

Good discipline begins with a discussion of what is and is not acceptable behavior in your home. read more

Medical Consent for Your Stepchild

Medical Consent for Your Stepchild Because you have no official legal status, the medical community may not allow you to authorize medical treatment for your stepchild. And because, legally, stepparents have no authority, care providers have developed some policies to deal with the issue. read more

Mom's Boyfriend Won't Get Close to Her Son

An expert advises a mother what steps to take with her boyfriend, to avoid hurting her son. read more

Moving in with Your Spouse

Moving in with Your Spouse When you (and your kids, if you have them) move into an already established household, you come in as an interloper. Never mind that you were invited or are there by mutual consent; you'll still have to deal with this issue of claiming the home as your own without appearing to be an alien invader. read more