Considerations for Step-parenting

Very few couples contemplating a second marriage that create a stepfamily understand the complexities of stepparenting. From day one, stepfamilies start out different in a myriad of ways, and the nuclear family model - two biological parents - does not fit them. Aronsohn catalogues the key differences this way:

  • Stepfamilies come together out of at least one major loss, and after several big changes.
  • The parent-child relationship(s) predate the new couple relationship.
  • The new stepparent has a sudden relationship with the child(ren) instead of anticipating and planning for that child.
  • The stepfamily members will be at disparate developmental stages in their lives from one another.
  • The two sides have to work and struggle to come to agreement over different, and foreign, ways of doing most everything.
  • There are ex-spouses, either in memory or in real life, and other kin, such as parents and siblings of ex-spouses, to deal with.
  • Society provides no reasonable expectations for stepfamilies, not even legally defined relationships for the stepparent and stepchild.
  • Children often shift back and forth between two households, requiring continual adjustment by all members.

Lofas notes that the "conflicting pulls of sexual and biological energies with the step relationship" play out a paradoxical way. "In the intact family, the couple comes together to have a child. The child is part of both parents, generally pulling the parents’ energy together for the well-being of the child. In step [relationships], blood and sexual ties can polarize a family in opposite energies and directions." Needless to say, the arrival of a new baby -- the child of the stepparents and the half sibling of the stepchildren -- gives the stepfamily another dimension and new challenges. The family of yours, mine and ours can challenge the most determined couples.



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