27 Jan 2016

How Long Does It Take to Unite a Stepfamily?

As long as 10 years, therapists say; just over 40% of the U.S. population has at least one step relative

When Heidi and Rob Sykes met, they each had three children from a previous marriage. During the five years they dated, they often found activities they could share with the children: pool parties, pizza dinners, their daughters’ soccer matches. “It was a lot of fun,” says Mr. Sykes, a 59-year-old realtor in Harrisburg, Pa.

Then the couple married and moved everyone in together. Before long all six children were rebelling, and Mr. and Ms. Sykes were in marriage counseling.

Forty percent of all new marriages in the U.S. are remarriages for one or both of the partners, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report. In addition, a little more than 40% of the U.S. population has at least one step relative: three in 10 have a step-or half-sibling; 18% have a living stepparent and 13% have at least one stepchild, a 2011 Pew report found.

It takes a lot more time than people think—as long 10 years—for a stepfamily to bond and build trust, marriage and family therapists say. One whole year alone goes to cycling through birthdays and holidays, learning about established rituals and creating new ones.

The challenges blending two families are many: a complex hierarchy between stepchildren, thorny relations with ex-spouses, children who are still grieving their parents’ divorce or the death of one parent and feel threatened by the new marriage. But the biggest challenge, the experts say, is how to parent children that aren’t your own.

The solution, they say, is clear: Each spouse needs to parent his or her own children. Dads cannot subcontract out the parenting of their children to their new wife. And stepparents must always take the nurturing, “good cop” role with their stepchildren.

When stepfamilies first start forming, there is a fantasy stage, when the couple is dating and newly in love, according to Patricia L. Papernow, a psychologist in Hudson, Mass., director of the Institute for Stepfamily Education and author of “Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships.” Each partner works to woo the other’s children, and isn’t closely involved with daily activities. The children are often excited to see mom or dad happy again.

After the couple gets married, the disillusionment stage starts pretty quickly. The finality of a new marriage forces children to let go of any lingering desires they had about mom and dad getting back together. Both spouses believe they have to parent the children, and the children often resent their stepparent’s presence.

Next is the restructuring stage. Spouses have to deal with variations in rules and habits. Family members are getting to know and trust each other.

Finally, families reach the rewards stage. Some differences may remain. But members understand their relationships to each other and have created new family bonds.

You can read the other half of the article here: http://on.wsj.com/1Ur4OZR

We would recommend that couples should contact us for advice at the Law Office of Alice Pare at 301-515-1190 or visit our website at: https://www.alicelaw.com

Do not at any time take the risky move of going at it alone.  We have a wide choice when it comes to going it alone but with the professional advice you will need.

#divorceattorneygermantown #lawofficeofalicepare #alicepare #mediatorgermantown #divorcelawyergermantown #divorceattorney #germantownmd #frederickmd

Need Advice? Get a Free Phone Consultation!

Contact us today