Points to Ponder for Stepparents
- As stepparents, we are stepping into an existing family structure and having to create a place for ourselves.
- In reality, we have very little control – especially in the beginning.
- We can look for opportunities to make a positive contribution.
- We should be open to feedback and proceed cautiously.
- It is possible to significantly affect the adjustment and well-being of our new family.
In these increasingly complex times, maintaining a long-term relationship is challenging enough; when you add ex-spouses and children from previous marriages into the mix, making a happy life together can seem daunting. But it is possible. Many people have done it. And if you and your spouse are committed to doing so, you will find some tools here that can help you.
Becoming really great parents requires adults to develop a new level of maturity in which they care about the needs of another person more than their own. With healthy adults, there is a strong biological imperative to take care of your children. With stepparents, this innate wiring is a little weaker, because we didn’t give birth to these children and in most cases we have not known them since they were babies. Successful stepparenting challenges us to take our character development to a higher level: to discipline ourselves to consider the importance of the parent-child relationship even when it may seem to undermine our own needs at times. The experience of being a stepparent can be a teacher, giving us an opportunity to deepen our capacity to love.
According to the most recent statistics, blended families are rapidly outnumbering the traditional nuclear family. And second marriages with children have a 60–70% likelihood of ending in divorce. With this kind of success rate, it’s a wonder that people keep trying; but we are social beings with a genetic imperative to bond. Thankfully, when it comes to love, hope springs eternal. Being a stepparent can provide an opening to love just for the sake of loving.
More Points to Ponder
- As stepparents, we play an important role in creating a family in which every member can thrive.
- When we choose to marry someone with children, thereby becoming stepparents, we make a commitment to our spouse and children.
- Divorced families have had enough of instability and dysfunction; they need both partners to be committed and bring the best of ourselves to the table.
For some stepparents, it may seem like you are stepping into a fractured family system and trying to make it whole again, in a different shape, while some family members may still be attached to the old family structure. Nevertheless, millions of stepparents are helping their new families to heal in various ways every day. You may feel you have very little control in your blended family. It’s a tough balancing act to keep in mind the rights, needs, and wants of others while being true to your own self. Most divorced families have at least a little leftover baggage. When you marry someone who has had children with another adult with whom they can no longer live for whatever reason, there are bound to be complications. It’s possible that you’ve never been in such a challenging situation before. I can’t think of anything that motivates us to stretch and grow our character as much as true love.
Seven Key Components for Successful Stepparenting
- A good marriage
- Write down two positive qualities of each individual in your stepfamily; include your spouse, your children, your stepchildren, and the other biological parents.
- What are two things that you and your spouse can do to cooperate with the other biological parents of your children and stepchildren?
- What are some of your core values or spiritual beliefs that can help you cope and flourish as a stepparent?
This article has been edited and excerpted from Wisdom on Stepparenting: How To Succeed Where Others Fail (CreateSpace, 2012) by Diana Weiss-Wisdom (Ph.D.). Written by a psychologist and stepmother, this book is for stepparents who want to learn how to be resilient, happy, and confident in their relationship with their spouse and their stepchildren. Dr. Weiss-Wisdom offers realistic coping strategies and proven techniques that help individuals succeed in their new marriages and build caring relationships with their stepchildren. In private practice in San Diego, CA for more than 25 years, Dr. Weiss-Wisdom is a noted expert in marriage counseling, stepfamily issues, and psychological testing. www.cottageclinic.net