* Is living in a Blended Family or a Stepfamily “more than you bargained for?”
* Does step parenting feel like the most challenging and thankless job of all?
* Is the tension and conflict taking its toll on your relationships
* Are you becoming worried about your children and their well-being?
* Are you constantly arguing with your partner about the kids, discipline and parenting in general?
• Is your ex or your partner's ex causing real problems in your blended family and in your relationship
• Are you at the end of your rope and need some answers NOW
* Are you considering entering into a Blended Family or Stepfamily and want to be prepared?
Over the past 4 years working with individuals and couples, it has become very apparent to us that when individuals and couples come to us prior to blending their lives and their families together, that this substantially increases their chances of success. It is the knowledge and awareness of what it takes, emotionally, psychologically, physically and mentally, to prepare for life in a new blended family, that really gives people the advantage they need. Just knowing what lies ahead, what to expect, what is normal, what the developmental stages of forming a blended family look like, give couples a sense of preparedness and control that they otherwise would not have had.
Let’s face it – statistics don’t lie. And what they tell us is that between 70-80% of second marriages with children don’t survive, resulting in second and sometimes third broken families in some cases. These are realities we cannot ignore. The human price is just far too great to pay. That is why we are determined and passionate about reaching people with this information, support and guidance while they are in the pre-commitment stage of their relationship. It is another form of Premarital Counselling but is more comprehensive and aims at preparing folks for the unique dynamics and issues they can expect to encounter in a new stepfamily or blended family.
So often people say to me, when they have come for counselling after having been married or living together for a length of time, “If we’d only known some of this before, it would have saved us so much heartache and conflict.” This is precisely what we want to do – to take a preventative approach to relationship and family building that takes into account the unique challenges that most stepfamilies and blended families encounter, even shortly after beginning their lives together.
This is truly the most preventative form or approach imaginable. We want to talk with individuals, either single parents or singles who are thinking about dating with children in the mix, or already are. Right now we will consider why this is important for single parents. Even at this stage, many of the dynamics start to appear. A colleague of mine, Dr. Jeannette Lofas claims that as soon as you are a single parent, post divorce or separation, it is not too soon to begin considering yourself as part of a potential stepfamily situation some day. Jeannette contends that as soon as you begin to think about dating again, it is not too soon to learn about what this will mean for your kids, for a potential new partner and most importantly what this will mean for you. It is important that individuals take the time to heal from their past relationships before moving into new ones, but this can also be a time to give some thoughtful consideration to the type of person you are looking for, and what that relationship will look like that involves your children. Putting yourself in the shoes of the other persons involved, such as your kids, to begin to understand what this will mean for them and what kind of issues that raises for them and how you can support them and deal with the issues, is important preparatory work for any single parent looking to move into another relationship – that could potentially become your new step or blended family. Getting as much information about what a stepdating situation can involve and what you can be doing to prepare yourself, is critical to your own well-being as well as your children’s. It can also definitely contribute to the success of any future relationships you may want to have.
For singles who are already dating or considering dating someone with children, the dynamics can be equally challenging. With divorce and separation being quite prevalent as well as many individuals marrying later in life, there is a high likelihood that you will meet and want to date someone with children, in your lifetime. This is not as easy or straightforward right from the start, for obvious reasons. For many singles, it can also give pause to even beginning a relationship because the stakes can appear higher. If it doesn’t work out then it isn’t just the two people dating that are involved. And that is only one consideration. Singles often feel the pressure from their partners to “love” their children as a prerequisite for the relationship. And then there is the question of “what is my role” with the children and how that does that evolve or grow over time, depending of course on the status of the relationship. A lot of questions, to which there are no hard and fast answers to. But having the opportunity to learn from others who have been down this road, and to be able to ask the important questions to determine if this is for you, is essential in helping people to make informed and rational decisions about their dating life if it is to include someone with children. We do individual coaching for those who find themselves in this position and now offer the CONSCIOUS DATING PROGRAM FOR SINGLES, which is geared to helping singles really determine who they are, what they are looking for in a partner and also what to consider when contemplating a relationship that may involved children from the very beginning.
The work that we do with couples in this stage is not unlike the pre-work done with individuals, but is now done within the context of a dating relationship where questions will come up like, “how much time do we spend together with the kids in a family context”, “what is my role as the girlfriend or boyfriend, vs the role of a potential stepmother or stepfather”, “how do we have a relationship with the interference of his/her ex spouse who is not happy about our union?” So many questions. And for couples who are dating, even just having the discussion about WHAT IS NEXT? Can be scary, but is no doubt on everyone’s minds, including the kids. So coaching at this level is to address the issues that are arising for you now, to provide information about what is happening and what you can expect to encounter and helping the relationship to evolve in a truly open and healthy way that allows both people to determine if this is the relationship for them before making a serious commitment. It is really a period of looking at things clearly so that decisions eventually can be made with both people knowing that they are informed and ready for the next step.
So you’ve been through the other steps, or not, and are thinking that you are in a relationship that is strong, committed and you want to take the plunge and make a permanent commitment to blend your lives and families. This is the time when most couples if they are at all inclined this way, will begin to consider the possibility of doing some premarital counselling. Or maybe you did that in your first marriage and it didn’t seem to make a difference, so you wouldn’t even consider it this time around. Either way, we strongly encourage couples, once they have decided to go to the next level, to take the time to inform themselves of the unique characteristics and challenges to be faced in a blended family situation. Even if you are sure that this is what you want and cannot be talked out of it, which is most of us by the way, then you still do yourself a huge favor by learning and preparing yourself as much as you can, about stepfamilies and what to expect.
The goal at this stage is again about education and informing people of what they can expect. We talk about the challenges that make stepfamilies different and in most cases more challenging than nuclear families; we talk about the danger sign – what to watch out for and how to prepare for the inevitable. We focus on how to build, nurture and safeguard your relationship and the relationships with the children, as well as how to organize yourselves to give the family the best chance to meet the needs of everyone involved. Chaos will be inevitable at some level, but to the extent you are prepared and not thrown by the demands and the built-in unpredictability that comes with blending two lives/families together, is the extent to which you can be ready for what comes your way, and also make sure that everyone is getting some of what they need (certainly not all).
We know the common mistakes, well intentioned as they are, that new couples and families make that can actually prevent the family from bonding and growing together. One for example, is spending all of your time together as a family, to the exclusion of special time alone for biological parents and children as well as for the new couple, which is absolutely critical to the success of the family. So in situations like this, it can be the case that just understanding what you are doing and knowing what works, can prevent years of disappointment, which not dealt with on the other hand, could lead to bitterness and resentment. This is unfortunately all too common in stepfamilies, but sometimes easily avoidable if we understand what people need and how to meet those needs within the context of the family.
We encourage all couples to embark on a course of Pre-Remarital Coaching for all of the above reasons and many more reasons not given. There are many ways in which you can do this. We work with couples through a combination of Phone Coaching and In-Person Sessions. For the many of you who are not able to do in-person work due to location and distance, we offer this Coaching by phone. 80% of the folks I work with do the work by phone and there are many benefits to doing it this way in addition to it being more accessible and convenient. For those who are able to do the work in-person we often still do a combination of Phone and In-person work to achieve the goals of the program.
I tailor half and full day personalized workshops to the unique needs of the couple and what they are experiencing. Of course the goal is to adequately prepare the couple for their new blended life together so we cover the full spectrum of issues and then we work together to create your own Relationship and Family plan that addresses your unique situation and what you are hoping to achieve together as a couple and a family.
If you are interested in this type of coaching for pre-remarital or pre-repartnering as not all couples marry when choosing to blend their families, then please contact us to set up an initial phone consultation and get any of your questions answered.
PLEASE CONTACT US WITH ANY QUESTIONS YOU MIGHT HAVE ABOUT OUR STEPDATING OR REMARRIAGE APPROACHES AND PREPARATORY COACHING PROGRAMS.
I look forward to hearing from you.