Step Families How to Create a Strong Step Family
"Help! I don't love my step-kids! Now what do I do?" If there's one question I get asked more than any other, this is it! Whether the couple is engaged and preparing to combine families or they are already married, this is a common fear. My reply to this is, "Who told you you had to love your step-children?" The problem with this question is that you're trying to play a new game with old rules! Let me explain. You're assuming that because you love your own children, you should love your partner's children because now you are (or soon will be) their step-parent. The "old rules" you're playing by are for nuclear families. I think just about anyone would look at you weird if you didn't love your biological children.
You been a part of their lives since birth. Is it fair to expect yourself to love children, whom you may have only known for a few months, to the same degree as you love your own children? Does that even make sense? NO! This isn't a nuclear family! The "new game" is a step family. Those old rules don't work here. Instead, they cause frustration and guilt. Your goal should NEVER be to emulate a nuclear family. Instead, it should be to have a healthy and happy step family.
This does NOT mean a step family is less than nuclear families? Absolutely not!! It just means they're different. A step family matures in stages. As those stages progress the feelings that everyone has for one another should progress as well. At the beginning everyone can feel uncomfortable and awkward. It may feel like all of the sudden, you're living with a bunch of strangers. I often advise new step-parents to try to focus on developing a "coach type" relationship with their step-children early on.
Kids look up to a coach because they are another adult who is fun and can teach them things. A coach's role is NOT a disciplinarian and they aren't expected to love the kids they work with. That's the type of role you want to play.
They already have a parent who is responsible for disciplining them and making sure they follow the rules. You should focus on getting to know them and developing a relationship with them. Over time as the family grows, love may or may not come into the picture. But that really isn't necessarily the goal. Your goal as a step-parent should always be: to be another positive adult in this kid's life.
Whenever you get frustrated or question how to react, I encourage you to ask yourself, "Will this action lead me toward or away from being another positive adult in this kid's life?" So take the pressure off yourself. Don't forget, you're not playing by nuclear family rules. Don't forget that the successful creation of a happy stepfamily takes years, NOT months. Relax and give everyone the time and space they need to flourish. Step families are complicated.
There are a lot of people, living in one house, with no close ties. This can lead to hurt feelings, disappointment, and arguments if you haven't parepared yourselves adequately.
I'd like to invite you to take a look at our best selling 2 book set, "The 7 Questions to Ask Before Saying 'I Do' Again" at http://www.RemarriageSuccess.com/7questions.htm . This book has an entire chapter devoted to discussing step family differences. The workbook will walk you step-by-step through important questions to ask yourself about how YOUR individual step family will function.
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