How Can Stepfamilies Achieve Success?
Updated November 27, 2019
Reviewer Karen Devlin, LPC
On many occasions, stepfamilies face unique challenges when it comes to achieving success. The extent and gravity of challenges can depend upon how big the stepfamily is, which party is new, whether or not the newest relative has had time to acquaint themselves with the rest of the immediate family, and much more.
The challenges which often present themselves frequently leave people wondering how to achieve stepfamily success. Thankfully, with time, persistence, and the right actions, this manner of success can be achieved. Stepfamily success might not happen overnight in all cases, but it's certainly possible with time. Knowing what to do, what not to do, and some of what to expect will certainly prove to be valuable in this type of situation.
Seven Ways to Achieve Stepfamily Success
Stepfamilies can achieve success, but it doesn't come without work and effort. Regardless of whether exes, co-parenting, new siblings, etc. are involved, there are some general rules for stepfamilies to be mindful of. Individual factors will certainly play a role in the dynamics of a stepfamily, but they don't have to hinder success and harmony with one another.
Stepfamilies everywhere can benefit and improve their situations by adhering to the following guidelines.
Foster Healthy Relationships with One Another
The success of a stepfamily will greatly depend upon whether or not members of the immediate family can bond with the newcomer. This is especially true when children are involved. In many cases, children may take longer to warm up to a step parent than the immediate parent does. Of course, if children are gaining step siblings who are close to them in age, they may have an easier time bonding with their step siblings than with a new adult.
Stepparents who are interested in bonding with their step children should refrain from immediately acting as parents. In most cases, it's best to allow the biological parent to take the front seat when it comes to being a parental figure. Stepparents can still bond with their stepchildren by engaging in family activities and simply being a supportive, older figure.
Sometimes, stepchildren can struggle with embracing stepparents due to the fear of seeming disloyal to their other parent. This is why fostering a healthy relationship is as important as not trying to rush things or forcing oneself upon stepchildren. In many cases, the significant other of the stepparent can contribute to their children gradually warming up to the newest member of the family.
Give And Take
Give and take is important in any relationship, but it's imperative for stepfamilies that are serious about success. Stepfamilies are different than relationships where only two people are involved; this means that not everyone will be able to get their way all the time. If one or more members of a stepfamily insist on always having their way, this is going to create problems sooner or later. Give and take not only allows for balance in a stepfamily, but it also shows that empathy and respect for one another are present.
Allow For One on One Time between Parents And Children
It's critical for stepfamilies to collectively bond with one another, but it's also important for children to know that the stepparent isn't trying to take their biological parent away from them. This message can unintentionally come across when the children's only interactions with their parent involve the presence of a stepparent. For this reason, it's healthy for parents in a blended family to get some one on one time with their children. In adjusting to the newness of a stepfamily, children will do well to know that they haven't lost the innate bond with their biological parent.
Allow For One on One Time between Spouses
Children will need time to adjust to a new stepparent, but a stepparent will also go through their process of adjustment. For this reason, it's important for both spouses to make time for just one another. This can involve date nights, honeymooning, or otherwise carving out time for spouses only. One on one time between spouses ultimately ensures that the romantic bond remains intact; this bond will greatly contribute to the overall success of a stepfamily.
Try To Get Along With the Other Parent If Children Are Involved
It's not uncommon for stepfamilies to face challenges when it comes to dealing with the other parent. However, if children are involved in a stepfamily, then it is in the best interest of all parties for the new spouse to get along with their significant other's ex. This will help cut down on overall tensions, and it will furthermore prevent children from feeling as though they have to choose between their parent and stepparent.
Obviously, there are some general rules as far as getting along with the other parent. Being respectful and making sure they know you're not trying to replace their role as the mother or father is imperative. Also, under no circumstances should a stepparent badmouth children's parents in the children's presence. Not only is this disrespectful to the other parent, but it can also be upsetting or confusing for the children involved.
Approach Conflict as A Team
Even with the best of actions and intentions, conflict is bound to arise from time to time. This is inevitable and something which happens in all relationships and families. What ultimately makes the greatest difference is how stepfamilies approach and handle conflict. Members of a stepfamily should never feel pitted against one another. It's never members of a stepfamily versus one another, but a stepfamily versus the problem. At the end of the day, teamwork, unity, and togetherness are the greatest anecdotes to any issues which may present themselves.
Try To Network with Other Stepfamilies
If at all possible, members of stepfamilies can find great value in networking with other blended families. No two stepfamilies are the same; however, this doesn't mean that they can't connect with one another and help each other. Understanding how other stepfamilies have achieved success can be immensely valuable for individuals who are still learning the ropes. One of the best ways of learning in life is to get advice from other people who have been where you are going. No matter who you are or how long you've been part of a stepfamily, there is always something new to be learned.
Trusting The Process
A huge part of enjoying a successful stepfamily is to trust the process. Following each of the above tips will certainly prove to be of value, but life is full of twists and turns. Sometimes, stepfamilies naturally get into a groove with one another and have a smooth transition; in other cases, achieving success as a stepfamily requires greater work and commitment from all parties involved.
Joining together as a stepfamily inherently involves change. Often, adults will have an easier time adapting and adjusting to certain changes than children. This is especially true for children who are in their adolescent or teenage years.
Ultimately, there are a variety of factors which will impact how children adjust to having a stepparent, how the new spouse adjusts to having stepchildren and much more. In many cases, it can take months or even years for a stepfamily to achieve success, and that's OK. Stepfamilies should move at their own pace and ensure that everyone is in a good place during this transition.
The Merits of Professional Help
Many stepfamilies can make things work on their own, without any professional guidance or assistance. Then, other stepfamilies do greatly benefit from having the help of a counselor or therapist. Neither one of these families is better than the other, but professional help can always make a positive difference for stepfamilies.
Stepfamilies as a whole can take therapy and so can separate individuals within a stepfamily. If necessary, therapy can take place both collectively and individually. Working with a professional comes with a plethora of upsides, namely the ability to get credible and professional advice which is uniquely applicable to a stepfamily's situation or an individual's situation.
Therapy is an amazing service which helps stepfamilies understand one another, gain unique insight, and learn the best steps to take for their situation. Individuals who work with a therapist can also reap the benefits of having someone to confide in and learning how to adjust to a new stepparent or stepchild.
Life can be busy for so many reasons. We all have work, commitments, and various obligations which demand our time and energy. As a result, this can significantly complicate the process of being at a designated location to receive therapy.
Thankfully, the world of technology has made online therapy possible. When you sign up for online therapy with Regain, you can work with a therapist anywhere. This works for both group therapy and individual therapy. Regain-based online therapy can change your life and is available regardless of where you live, how big your family is, or what issues you may be facing.
At the end of the day, working with an online therapist is about ensuring that you have the tools and knowledge to be happy and well in all areas of your life.