Step Parenting

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It is the adult, kind thing to do, regardless of personal dislike. This pertains especially to those who were referred to as something else before i. In the same way that one transitions from the use of a name to a nickname, transitioning from a first name to mom or dad is a process.

Rather, they are the result of years and years of habit and association. There will always be unique relationship dynamics in a family that change the approach one can or should take in establishing a bond with their step-child, but the vitality of time and effort is universal. Be mindful of the delicate, often times awkward situation step-children are placed in, and respond accordingly.

Empathy and authenticity go a long way in becoming a trusted, respected, and loved parent. Best of luck! Reflections by Paul C. Holinger, M. Here is a very wise essay by Amelia Watkins about her experiences as a step-child having a step-father. Guest Contributor Amelia Watkins Amelia Watkins is an eighteen year old college student pursuing a degree in journalism and environmental science. She is the youngest of three children, and has a passion for writing. Paul C. Can play and creativity help us to better understand human development? Recent events draw attention to the consequences of physical punishment.

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12 Things No One Tells You About Being A Stepparent

Paul C Holinger M. Follow me on Twitter. Friend me on Faceook. Embrace your newfound identity Step one in becoming the best possible step-parent is acknowledging and accepting the complexities of your new identity as a step-parent.

Schedule alone time with your step-kid s This may seem obvious — every parent should spend time with their kids, right? Comment Post Comment Your name. E-mail The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly. Notify me when new comments are posted. All comments. Replies to my comment. Leave this field blank. About the Author. In Print:. View Author Profile.

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8 Boundaries Stepparents Shouldn't Cross

More Posts. Play and Creativity Can play and creativity help us to better understand human development? Update on Physical Punishment Recent events draw attention to the consequences of physical punishment. Continue Reading. Most Popular. The End of Sex. More Like This. Get Listed Today. Children of either parent may be living in the household, all or part of the time. In complex step-families, children have step-siblings.

2. Create Healthy Boundaries

Some repartnered couples, also referred to as step-couples, go on to have a "mutual" child of their own referred to in the Australian Census as "blended" families; ABS, The children in these families then gain a half-brother or half-sister. Hence, while there is evidence that the "step-" terms have some negative connotations, they allow us to talk about step-family relationships and provide step-family members with names for their step-relationships.

While established step-families can look very much like non-divorced families from an external perspective, step-families are different in essential ways and these differences underlie many of the challenges that step-families face. Papernow , an American step-family therapist, talks about "step-family architecture" and argues that it is this "architecture" or structure of the step-family system that creates challenges for adults and children.


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Hence, prior to step-family formation, children have already gone through one major family transition and the stresses associated with that. The transition from a sole-parent family to a step-family then involves a re-organisation of family roles and rules, and the development of new step-relationships Hetherington, ; Papernow, Step-family therapists observe that step-parents enter the family as an outsider.

The bond between children and parents is well developed, but step-parents and children are relatively unfamiliar with each other. While the couple's relationship is freely chosen, the relationship between the step-parent and step-children is not. It is a by-product of the couple's repartnering.

What Is A Step Parent's Role?

Children's readiness to accept the step-parent is also influenced by their age and gender, and their level of functioning prior to repartnering. Another important structural difference relates to the couple or marital dyad. In non-divorced families, this dyad is also the parental dyad.

However, this is not the case in step-families, where at least one of the adults or both, in complex families is not a parent to some of the children in the household. A number of studies have found that most conflict between couples in step-families is over issues to do with the children Hobart, To add to the complexity, there may also be step-siblings present in the household, some couples may have a "mutual" child, and some children may spend all or some of their time in their other parent's home.

The step-parent role, particularly that of the step-mother, has been subjected to negative stereotypes for centuries. This is clearly illustrated in the children's stories of Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella and Snow White. In all of these stories, wicked step-mothers mistreat their step-children out of jealousy or competition over resources. Stereotypes of the wicked step-mother and abusive step-father can affect children's perceptions of step-parents and step-parents' perceptions of themselves in negative ways Claxton-Oldfield, As a result, some parents and step-parents reject the use of the term "step-" to describe themselves and their step-family relationships.

This lack of institutionalisation may underlie some of the ambiguity that is associated with the step-parent role. There is also evidence that step-fathers themselves are not in agreement about what it means to be a step-father Marsiglio, In an early Australian study, Ochiltree compared the competence of children and adolescents in intact two-parent families, step-families, and one-parent families randomly selected through the Australian school system.

Controlling for socio-economic status, children and adolescents in one-parent families were similar to those in two-parent families. Children in step-families, on the other hand, had lower reading ability, impulse control and self-esteem. Rodgers and Pryor , reviewing British research on the outcomes for families of divorce, also concluded that children in step-families had an increased risk of developing emotional and behavioural problems compared to children in non-divorced families, and increased risks of having poor educational outcomes, leaving home early, and beginning sexual activity early compared to those in sole-parent and non-divorced families.

The difficulties we don’t talk about as step-parents | The Spinoff

Ganong and Coleman , in their review of the step-family literature, concluded that the risk of adjustment problems for children in step-families is now well established. In , Crosbie-Burnett conducted a seminal study in the United States in which she investigated the relative importance of the marital relationship versus the step-father-child relationship in predicting family happiness in step-father families.

She found that satisfactory relationships between step-fathers and children were more highly associated with step-family happiness than was the marital relationship. These studies drew attention to the "centrality" of the step-father-child relationship within the step-family system and the importance of the step-parent-child relationship to child and step-family wellbeing. Pryor in her New Zealand study of step-family resilience found that children's feelings of closeness to their step-parents correlated with children's perceptions of their own strengths.

Comments from the teen's world

Ochiltree , in her Australian study, also found that the children in step-families with high self-esteem had a good relationship with their step-parents, while those with low self-esteem did not get on with their step-parents. Further, results from a large study in the United States found that close relationships with both non-resident fathers and resident step-fathers were associated with better adolescent outcomes; however, relationships with step-fathers affected outcomes more than relationships with non-resident fathers King, , perhaps as a result of the greater level of day-to-day contact with step-fathers.

Hence, there is a growing consensus among family researchers that the step-parent-child relationship affects child wellbeing, and many of the challenges step-families face revolve around the role of the step-parent Schrodt, There is variability in the roles that step-parents adopt. As mentioned previously, it is common for step-parents both step-mothers and step-fathers to take on a parenting role and attempt to build a "normal" family in which the step-parent engages in the care and discipline activities of parenting e.

Other step-parents try to become friends with their step-children and do not take on a disciplinary role, but rather maintain a supportive role e. Researchers and step-family therapists have concluded that an adaptive step-parent role is different from a parenting role. Many step-parents take on a disciplinary role with their step-children early on.

In a more recent New Zealand study, Mobley found that two-thirds of the adults she interviewed believed that step-mothers and step-fathers ought ideally to be able to take up a disciplinary role with children and to share this role with parents. This is particularly so in the first two to three years of step-family life.

Hetherington and Clingempeel , in one of the first longitudinal studies on step-families in the United States, found that those formed prior to children's adolescence were most successful when the step-father supported the mother's efforts to discipline the children, attempted to build a close relationship with children, and only gradually attempted to exert authority. More recent research, however, has shown that some children, including adolescents, will grant some authority to step-parents whom they trust.

Schrodt , in a study of young adult step-children, found that some young adult step-children who had close relationships with their step-fathers, and were confident in their positive concern, had granted the step-father authority in their lives. Step-family therapists e. They believe it works best if step-parents support the parent's discipline, and act as back up when parents are not present. Papernow discussed the need to develop a "middle ground" between step-parents and children, which is characterised by sharing interests or activities, and having a sense of knowing and trusting each other.

This then allows for the step-parent to eventually have greater influence in the child's life. Finally, it is important to comment on the special difficulties that step-mothers face. There may be a number of reasons for these increased difficulties.