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Friday, April 13, 2012


Statistics indicate that more than one-third of Canadians are stepparents, stepchildren, stepsiblings, or some other member of a stepfamily. The number of children living with both of their biological parents has declined, and the number of children living in a stepfamily has increased.

Family structures have changed through divorce, single-parenting, or remarriage.  The big  question many struggle with is how such changes affect children.  Everyone assumes that any family form that differs from the traditional two-parent, biological family is assumed to place children at risk.  Assumptions are never good and this is an area that has been under research for many years. Some studies find children in stepfamilies are less well adjusted than children in other families and other studies find no such differences.

Two somewhat consistent findings have emerged from the literature. No differences in self-esteem are found between children of different family structures, and children in stepfamilies tend to leave home earlier.  More recent studies indicate that children in stepfamilies have more overall behavioral problems than children in first-marriage families.

Some studies find children in stepfamilies to be susceptible to peer pressure and deviant peer relationships, which may lead to later delinquent behavior, and girls in stepfamilies may be at increased risk for drug/alcohol use. Because children in stepfamilies and single-parent families report more negative stress in their lives, behavior problems and adjustment difficulties may be one reaction to stress. Compared to children in intact, unhappy first-marriage families, stepchildren are better adjusted.

After all the research we come back to something we know, from living in a stepfamily, to be true.  Time is needed for children to adjust; some adjustment difficulties and negative reactions would be expected. With time many problems disappear or decrease.   We believe that children are ver resilient and given the opportunity will adjust to changes in their lives.    

Research consistently suggests that the parent-child, former-spouse, and the spousal relationships affect child outcomes. For example, parenting style and positive parent-child interactions affect children's adjustment. Studies indicate that high parental warmth and support, consistency, limited use of punishment, and agreement between spouses on children's issues are associated with positive outcomes. The former-spouse relationship also can affect children's adjustment through conflict and competition. 

Regardless of family structure, we know that low marital conflict and positive spousal relations enhance children's adjustment.  Any home that is highly conflictual is likely to negatively affect a child's well-being.  Higher stress may lead to adjustment difficulties such as poor academic performance and problem behaviors. Age of the child is another factor affecting children's adjustment. Adolescents have a more difficult time than do younger children, in part because adolescence is a time of developmental change.

At the end of the day, when you look at all the variations of "types of families" and the rapid pace of change in our lives today there is no factual evidence that children in Stepfamilies are more at risk than those in a biological family.   Families are a dynamic entity where all the members must work together and achieve some form of "common ground" and trust. 

Trust does not happen overnight, and we in Stepfamilies often want to wave that "magic wand" and have the perfect "Brady Bunch".   Over time we might get close to perfect, but sometimes acceptance of what we have is a great place to be.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Are Stepfamilies Complicated??

Yes, they are more complicated - that's the bad news - the good news is that they can be very productive and happy places to live.  Stepfamilies can test you for what it takes to create a successful relationship. They are surprisingly interesting and empowering with the intricacies of family life.

After more than three decades of divorce and family break-up we still don't quite know what to make of stepfamilies. We loved the Brady Bunch, but that was before we discovered how unreal they were.  Now that stepfamilies embrace one of every three children and, one way or another, impact the vast majority of families, we can't seem to get past seeing them as the spawn of failure, the shadow side of our overidealized traditional family.

When we think of them at all, we see only what they are not--hence their designation as "nontraditional " families, heaped with unwed moms, gay parents, and other permutations that make up the majority of families today. By the year 2000, stepfamilies outnumbered all other family types - so we better get our heads around the fact that they are here to stay, we need to understand them and we need to support them.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Are you Living in a Stepfamily?

A Stepfamily, or Blended Family is defined as:    Any Couple, dating, married or living together,  where at least one of the partners has a child from a previous marriage or relationship.

 Many stepfamilies have tried traditional counseling methods with poor results.
Our proven methods will move you to finding workable solutions for your family FAST.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Adjustment to stepfamily life happens quickly

 Often couples are optomistic that when they remarry life will smooth out and settle down quickly.  If your hope is that once the wedding vows are spoken your life will return to a "normal state" (whatever that normal state may be), you might be disappinted.

Because stepfamilies are such complicated families, it takes time for people to get to know each other and have the opportunity to create positive relationships.  Research tells us that to develop some family history it takes at least four years.   All things worth having is worth waiting for ..... and so it is with the stepfamily.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Myth - Stepmothers are wicked

Based on the fairy tales we heard as children  - Stepmothers can be depicted as not nice, kind, or fair.  Therefore they are to be "suspect" members of the family and not to be trusted.

This negative concept of the stepmother role imparts us in a very personal way and we may be very self-conscious about our stepparenting. Research tells us that stepmothers have the most difficult role in the stepfamily.

Stepmothers have a huge opportunity to positively impact the lives of the children that they welcome in to their stepfamily with realistic expectations.  Often children reveal (when they become adults) just how important that role was for them!

Myth - Love occurs instantly between the child and the stepparent

This myth says that I will automaticlly love his or her children; or that the children will automatically love us because we are such nice people.

Of course this is not realistic.  Stepfamilies are like a "full mean deal" - some of them are easier to love than others.  Love can and often happens in Stepfamilies - but it takes time - it does not happen "over night" or because we "want it to happen". 

Stepfamilies are often places where it is hard to accept that sometimes we are willing to have a relationship with someone who is not willing to have a relationship with us.  We often get hurt in this process and can become resentful and angry.

Having realistic expectations is a good place to start with the Stepfamily.  We worked on respect as an initial step.  Love did happen but it came after respect and a willingness to be part of this new family and to let love happen again.