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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?

The 10 Step Family Dragons

The stepfamily begins with the breakdown of the biological family or families, creating what we call the Bi-Nuclear family system: mother's side, father's side (with the children belonging to both.) Families are Coming From the Biological Norm and Going Towards a Co-Parenting Relationship or set of (or series of) relationships.

When either or both parents get involved with new partners, conflict is escalated even more. There is an extended stepfamily system that now has to be taken into consideration and generally is not. We aim to help our new bi-nuclear families move into healthy, working relationships and develop a new family system which can safeguard and nurture the best interests of the child(ren)involved. One important way to do this is to by assisting families to face and conquer the Ten Stepfamily Dragons. (Theory as presented here on the 10 Step Family Dragons is credited to The Stepfamily Foundation Inc.)

They include:

  1. The Stepfamily or Blended Family Cannot and Will Not Function as Does the Traditional or Biological Family. The sooner everyone accepts that, the sooner we can get to work on addressing the new realities.
  2. Conflicting Forces of Blood and Sex: The blood which bonds people together in the biological family, (Parent to Child to Parent), is absent in the stepfamily. By nature this blood bond is in opposition with the sexual bonds in the new partnership between parent and stepparent. “Who comes first, my child or my partner?” is a commonly asked question in new stepfamilies.
  3. Partnership Skills for the New Challenges are at a Premium. Going through divorce or separation, to be followed by remarriage and the building of a new stepfamily or blended family are all events that demand a high level of maturity and a new understanding of parenting and partnering. The old model of the family and parenting is outdated when you are talking about forming a stepfamily; the new skills are not learned easily and information/support is not readily available to help parents develop the skills necessary for the complicated task of merging two families.
  4. Chaos of Persistent and Unexpected Change: PARENTS rarely establish an infrastructure or a system which reflects the new reality for everyone involved; a new infrastructure would establish who does what and how, what are the new roles and rules. Boundaries between the nuclear and extended stepfamily remain fuzzy and unclear. Consistency and predictability are at an all time low in most new stepfamilies which naturally leads to conflict and chaos.
  5. Conflict of Loyalties are felt by every member of the system. Parent vs child re: partner, partner vs partner re: child, partner vs new spouse re: prior spouse, child vs stepparent re: biological parent. For example, the child may think to themselves “If I care about my stepmom, that means I don’t care about my real mom.” Issues of loyalty become the basis for decision making which often puts the relationships in stepfamilies and blended families in real jeopardy.
  6. Diminished Parenting: Parents can be otherwise occupied with divorce, separation and the demands of a new relationship or family. Parenting between the custodial and visiting parent is often in conflict. Parents experience fear of the loss of popularity with and love of the child which in turn guides their behaviors. As a result there is often an increased amount of permissive parenting. Guilt creates overindulgence towards children and shame inhibits discipline. The step-parent with no assigned role either doesn’t parent or attempts to over-parent, neither of which supports or nurtures the child in a meaningful way and puts up roadblocks in the way of a developing relationship between the two.
  7. Dollars – Conflicts over Distribution of Money
  8. Denial – Splitting and Lack of Awareness: These can be caused or brought on by the traumatic stress of divorce and post divorce. There is a general lack of awareness of the dynamics of divorce and re-coupling. Individuals easily get into blaming each other instead of recognizing that divorce and the step dynamics themselves are the reason for most conflict and stress. “It’s the dynamics not the individuals that are to blame.”
  9. The Lack of Co-Parenting and Badmouthing Between Ex-Spouses: Few parents have a concrete co-parenting plan but desperately need one. Many indulge in bad-mouthing of the other parent. Badmouthing hurts the child deeply and the child’s self-esteem for life because one parent is saying the other half of the child is “bad”. The parent who is badmouthed does not know how to neutralize badmouthing. Often children are made to judge, and often choose, between their blood parents.
  10. Visitation: Most often, upsets or conflict are due to lack of planning. The new parent may feel excluded, experience a lack of a role and receive little or no support from the blood parent (their partner). Upsets occur between the new couple, not to mention between the custodial and visiting parents. Children are often caught in the middle or at the very least, are aware of the tension and conflict between those involved.

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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