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Shouldn't it be Easier?

Even though society is changing, women still set the emotional tone for the family. It seems they are the person ultimately responsible for children and household. Men are taking more and more responsibility in these areas, but they are usually considered "helpers." This still puts the woman in the role of keeping the household (and people therein) under control and running smoothly. In trying to do this, women knock themselves out to keeping the place neat and germ-free, the children well behaved, edible meals on the table, as well as potentially working outside of the home.

In remarriage, there are many changes and therefore many losses to deal with. The older the children in any family, the more input they want and need, the more settled they are in their ways, and the more they need connections with their peer group. In stepfamilies, they have not chosen all the changes they face, so they often feel helpless and rebel earlier than in nuclear families. They tend to get out on their own more quickly - often returning later to relate to the family as young adults, so long as the door has been left open.

'Uh-Oh' Prevention Suggestions

Here are a few suggestions that you can use as you realign your expectations and reduce the 'Uh-Oh's' of stepfamily life:
  • Remember that it takes time for relationships to develop. Just let happen what is going to happen between you and your stepchildren. Be around at times they might want to talk to you, watch TV with you, pull weeds with you, but let them approach you at their own pace.
  • Actively plan regular times to do something fun together with your partner. If you wait for some "free time" to turn up, you'll never make it out of the house together!
  • If you've had no children, talk to women who have. Read respected books about children or take a course on child development, just to get some idea of what to expect at certain ages.
  • Read articles and books and attend lectures and classes about the special structure and challenges in stepfamilies. Share these with your partner.
  • If you are a remarried mother, you are in a great position to help the family come together as a household unit. That's because you belong already in both groups - the couple group, and a parent-child group. Stand back, don't get caught in the middle, and let the new relationships grow.
  • Stepparents and stepchildren get to know each other by going to the store together, taking a walk together, reading a story together, working out ways of working together. At other times, you can do things alone with your biological children to deepen and maintain those relationships.
  • Decide as a couple on 3-4 specific house rules that are important - and let the other things go. No two people do things the same way. Trying to deal with any more than these 3-4 specific items simply frustrates everyone!
  • As much as humanly possible, let your children and stepchildren relate to their other biological parent without hearing negatives about that person. They are still related to that parent and therefore feel as if they are being criticized when that person is criticized. As a result, they usually end up behaving in ways you don't like.
  • Let everyone in the family plan fun things to do so you will get away from daily tasks and create new traditions of your own. This will make for pleasant memories in the future.
  • All families, of any type, in any culture, have their moments of joy, moments of sorrow, moments of anger, and moments of love. To expect only the positive leads to disappointments and self doubt.

Stepfamilies can be great, especially when you don't trip over the terribly unrealistic expectations and get bogged down in the 'Uh-Oh's." Keep your attitude in the here and now so you can work to embrace the journey with your very unique stepfamily.

Adapted from an article, written by Emily Visher, Ph.D., co-founder (with her husband John Visher) of the Stepfamily Association of America. For more information, visit: