Remarried With Children
Significant psychological and emotional shifts and changes occur between the newly married couple and stepchildren after the wedding occurs. Before a wedding there is usually no parenting or limited parenting of the future stepchildren. Once married it is not uncommon for stepparents to believe that they should have a more hands-on approach with their stepchildren. But this often does not work.
Often stepfamilies have to adjust their expectations and roles over time. Adjustments of expectations may include:
- Falsely believing that love will happen quickly between all family members. Love, security, safety, and trust develop slowly over time as healthy interactions take place.
- Falsely believing that the children will feel as happy about the remarriage as we do. Children in a stepfamily often feel confused about the remarriage. They may be happy and angry at the same time.
- Falsely believing that blending is the goal of this stepfamily. Stepfamilies can integrate but there is most often not a smooth blending of persons.
Stepfamily members need to remember:
- For stepfamilies to be or feel like a “family” will take time. Most stepfamilies need at least 7 years before stress returns to a normal range.
- Stepchildren do not bond quickly with a stepparent. Stepparents need to adopt a “babysitter” or “coach” approach with stepchildren initially until a bond can be formed. The stepparent should try bonding around daily routines, going to stepchildren’s ballgames or PTA meetings or doing other extracurricular activities. Stepparents need to take an interest in their stepchild’s life and build a relationship. This lays the foundation for authority, instruction, and discipline.
- Even though the biological parent needs to provide vital care for his/her child, the marriage still needs to be a priority. This does not mean abandoning the children nor does it mean the couple won’t make sacrifices for the children.
- The stepparent needs to encourage the biological parent to have time with his/her biological child.
- Develop a regular time of family meetings to talk about schedules and plan that are coming up. It can also be a time of problem solving or decision making or devotional time.
Effective/Ineffective Parenting (see article on styles of parenting)
- Authoritarian parenting – is characterized by high/hard rules, harsh discipline, and excessive control. “Do it because I say do it.”
- Permissive parenting – There are very few rules and limits and children are given unlimited choices. Excuses are made for a child’s behavior. “He doesn’t have his dad so….”
- Authoritative parenting – firmness yet respect is maintained for the child(ren), boundaries are consistently maintained, rules are clear, and consistent consequences are applied balanced with love and nurture.