How are Stepfamilies Different? (And How Can Therapy Help?)
If you are remarried, you most likely formed an instant family with children from previous unions; two entities coming together with two different ways of operating. Maybe your kids look forward to Taco Fridays, but your spouse and his crew always go out for pizza on Friday nights. Maybe you are use to having quiet nights after work, but your new spouse likes to roughhouse with his little ones when he gets home after a long day.
Two different family cultures coming together can cause conflict and hurt feelings all around. My goal for your family is for everyone's needs to be taken into account and to help meaningful compromise (and development of new family traditions) to take place.
Insiders and Outsiders.
When couples remarry and there are kids involved, there are always insiders and outsiders. Many step-parents exist outside looking in on a biological family of which they can never gain membership, while biological parents often feel torn between wanting to please their spouse and their children. Both positions are difficult and often painful. I facilitate a conversation where you both feel heard by one another, less defensive and more aware of each other's needs going forward.
For better or for worse, ex-partners are often part of the picture.
Ex-spouses can cause tremendous stress in a remarriage. But, in most cases, our children's attachment to their other parent, no matter how difficult they are, is hard-wired. That means, for the sake of our kids, we have to find a way to comfortably co-exist. (We know that kids of divorce fair just as well as kids from intact marriages as long as their biological parents maintain a low conflict relationship. ) Problems emerge when an ex's behavior causes conflict between you and your spouse. I can help you set reasonable boundaries with a difficult ex, and more importantly, face the situation together as a team.
Different Parenting Styles Cause Conflict.
Of course, this can be true for any couple, but it's more complicated with stepfamilies. A step-parent might think a teen's eye rolling is disrespectful while the biological parent might find it harmless and developmentally appropriate. The parent wishes the step-parent could access more compassion for their child (as they so easily do) and the step-parent wishes their spouse would toughen up with their kids.
The more rigid the stepparent becomes, the more permissive the parent becomes, and now the couple is polarized in their parenting styles. None of this is healthy for the couple, let alone the children. I can help you learn about best practices in step family parenting and how to align your parenting styles and find balance. You both have something important to contribute as parent and stepparent.