Step-parenting looks so easy on TV. Remember the Brady Bunch? Two widows, Carol and Mike, marry and blend their families with one family with six children. Or how about Modern Family with Gloria, a Latina and Jay, the older White male who enters a second marriage with Gloria’s young son resides with them? Jay’s older adult children and their families also are included. Today, 36 % of all marriages will result in divorce (CDC, 2020). The new marriage blends two families with children into one. = The first step is the newly married couple first must set up the family residence. Some families have a new home built while others move into an earlier home. If you were living together before marriages, you got a head start.
Seeing yourself as a “stepmother ” or “stepfather” is assuming a new identity. Daily tasks might include picking up the kids from school, signing school forms, helping with homework, taking kids to activities, helping with parent exchanges, and setting expectations for household roles. Agreeing on the can avoid resentment and role strain. Discipline, of course is not the only way to express parental authority.
Cultural Differences in Step-parenting
Do you both come from similar or different cultures? Cultural differences must be discussed. Culture shapes parenting and marital expectations. Some minority parents want to teach their children their native language, have grooming preferences, rites of passage (bar mitzvah), expectations for children moving out, and may remit family finances to extended family in another country. What if one of your stepchildren identifies as gay or transgendered? It is recommended to discuss systemic oppression including but not limited to racism and sexism.
Boundaries must be considered with children. Previously, when your wife and her two daughters lived together, they may have worn less clothing or kept door unlocked? Now, there is a male living in the home with a son and a daughter he brings to the marriage visiting every other weekend. The children may need to share rooms or living spaces. What clothing needs to be worn? If a door is closed, what do children need to do? Privacy is needed with adolescent children. Stepmother walking in on a stepson masturbating could be awkward. As a couple when you are having sex and a small child wake from a nightmare and wanders into an unlocked marital bedroom,
Household Roles must be discussed. As a couple, you may expect everything to be 50/50. If one of you travels for work or works from home, perhaps you may want to discuss who does what chores. If you don’t discuss the roles, you ae likely to have different expectations.
Having alone time is paramount for your success as a married couple. Time without your children, as a couple is a dire need when children especially younger children are in the family. Adolescent children often want to be with their friends. When children are at their mom’s or dads for the weekend, there is time to relax, go to dinner, do household projects together, or have a romantic weekend. Alone time allows each spouse to have time with friends, hobbies, and to maintain their own identity,
Encouraging Co-Parenting Relationships
The better the co-parenting relationships are with your spouse’s ex the heathy things are for the children involved. Setting up co-parenting meetings every 2-3 months are key to discuss school performance, clothing needs, medical appointments, summer camp, problem solve, and for scheduling If you display respect and communicate well with your spouse’s ex, the children see it and it helps them to accept you more as a stepparent. Being on the same page helps you dodge being put in the middle by smart children.
Conflict will occur and cannot be avoided. You may not agree with a punishment, he or she issues to their child. You may see the child manipulating your spouse and it angers you. You may feel that your spouse buys more things for her children but buys little for your children? How do you address this as you are beginning to feel resentful. Do we want to have children, together Have you considered infertility or reversal of a vasectomy. Will you need IVF? Can we afford more children?
Good news, you do not have to tackle any of this alone, let us help you and your spouse.