To a child who does not belong to one, stepfamily may suggest Cinderella's family or the Brady Bunch. Actually, neither situation tells the whole story. In a blended or stepfamily, one or both partners have been married before. Each has lost a spouse through divorce or death. One or both of them have children from their previous marriage. They have fallen in love and decided to remarry. They form a new stepfamily that includes children from one or both of their first households.
Today, at least one-third of all children in the U.S. are expected to live in a stepfamily before they reach age 18. The blended family is becoming more of a norm than an aberration. Born of conflict and loss, newfound commitment, and often heart-wrenching transition, stepfamilies face many lifestyle adjustments and life changes. Fortunately, most of them are able to work out their problems and live together successfully. But it takes careful planning, open discussions of feelings, positive attitudes, mutual respect and patience.
Studies show that children of stepfamilies face a higher risk of emotional and behavioral problems. They also are less likely to be resilient in stressful situations. Although most parents are able to work out these difficulties within the family, they should consider a psychiatric evaluation or make an appointment with a counselor for their child when he exhibits strong feelings of being:
- Alone in dealing with his losses
- Torn between two parents or two households
- Isolated by feelings of guilt and anger
- Unsure about what is right
- Very uncomfortable with any member of his original family or step family.
A psychiatric evaluation or a consultation with a licensed therapist might be appropriate for both the child and the family when:
- The child directs his anger upon a particular family member or openly resents a stepparent or parent
- One of the parents suffers from great stress and is unable to help with the childs increased need for attention
- A stepparent or parent openly favors one of the children
- Discipline of a child is left to the parent rather than involving both the stepparent and parent
- Members of the family derive no pleasure from usually enjoyable activities such as learning, going to school, working, playing, or being with friends and family.
By devoting the necessary time to develop their own traditions and form caring relationships stepfamilies can create emotionally rich and lasting bonds for each member. In the process, the children acquire the self-esteem and strength to enjoy the challenges that lie ahead.
The information provided in this web site or via links, is for informational purposes only. It does not take the place of, nor is it intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a professional.