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Ask Yourself

* 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?

Differences That Make a Difference

We can't stress it enough, original families are completely different than stepfamilies and blended families. We simply cannot apply what we know about living in a biological family, to living in a stepfamily and be successful. We've outlined some of the ways in which the two are very different and why expectations that a stepfamily should operate the same as biological family lead to frustration, disappointment, conflict and often failure.
(Lists of Differences developed by The Stepfamily Foundation, Inc.)

Original/Biological Family

  • Related by blood
  • Biological father - mother plus
  • Parents work for the good
    of their mutual children
  • The pattern for the family
    is normal
  • There is time to form norms and structure, even before children are part of the picture
  • A similar point of view on marriage and life evolves and/or is reconciled
  • Couple comes first
  • Parents predate the
    children with an established relationship and structure
  • Positions in the family are generally known and understood
  • Legal relationship and obligations exist with both parents
  • Only one house for the family
  • Parents demand respect of the other parent; more opportunity for parents to back each other up
  • Sex and Blood Bonds are not in conflict
  • Children are bonded to
    both parents and want to please both
  • Less opportunity to pit parent against parent
  • No ugly myths or fairytales surrounding parenthood

Stepfamily or Blended Family

  • Related by marriage or living together
  • One biological parent plus one stepparent
  • Parent and stepparent work to meet the often conflicting needs of his/her/their children
  • Little / no time for the development of forms and norms; children are already part of the picture
  • Different backgrounds and ways of seeing the world often conflict. Not enough time for these to evolve and be reconciled
  • Couple never came first before the children
  • Couple must come together almost immediately to establish new rules,
    routines, structures for all involved
  • Positions in family are widely isunderstood and hold tremendous potential for conflict
  • CONFLICT: What is my position? Place? Power? Influence?
  • The child has no legal relationship with the stepparent
  • At least two, perhaps more homes for the family
  • Sex and Blood Bonds are in conflict; the pull between the bonds of parent-child-couple conflict
  • Children are torn; don't know how to act or who to please
  • Children are often subjected to fights between parents who live in separate homes, and the parent and stepparent; ample opportunity to pit parents against each other
  • Myths abound especially re: "The Wicked Stepmother"
  • Stepfamily is formed from losses ie. death, divorce or separation
  • Startling, unexpected behaviors often stem from misunderstood, underlying dynamics and unresolved issues and feelings
  • Unrealistic expectations of healing that needs to take place and of how the new family will make up for the hurts of the past
  • Children mourn the loss of the original family and may be more vulnerable; they may be fearful of yet another separation or break up of their new family, which the statistics tell us is more likely than not.

Full acknowledgement is given to Jeanette Lofas, Ph.D, LCSW, Founder and President of the Stepfamily Foundation Inc, headquartered in New York City.



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