Whether you or your partner became a stepparent due to divorce, remarriage, a new committed relationship, or death of a spouse, stepfamily counseling can support you through the challenges you’ll encounter. You don't have to do it alone to build a strong foundation for a stepfamily..
Integrating families can be difficult to navigate and stressful for both adults and children. Every family is different, so there isn’t one textbook way to bring new families together harmoniously. That’s why speaking to someone about your unique stepfamily can be extremely helpful. Couples counseling can help stepfamilies reduce friction between family members and develop mutual respect for one another. Counseling can help you as a couple, or individually, become a strong unit to weather the storms that inevitably occur in a stepfamily situation.
1. Build Trust
Stepfamilies—which we define as “his,” her,” or “our” children living together some of the time—are vulnerable to conflicts and disagreements, according to family research. That’s not surprising considering a new family is just that—new! It’s not easy getting used to a new situation, but with stepfamilies the transition can feel even more personal and intrusive. However, you and your stepfamily can work together to build trust within your new family unit to avoid tense conflicts.
Couples counseling helps remarried couples and stepfamilies explore patience and understanding as an important component of trust-building and helps everyone become more comfortable in the new situation.
In counseling sessions, you can also resolve feelings about your previous relationship or marriage and learn how to set the right expectations between family members about everything from living arrangements to parenting styles. Each discussion builds more trust between members and improves your chances of creating a healthy stepfamily situation.
2. Set Boundaries
It’s important to remember that new stepfamilies can feel out-of-place, isolating, or even hostile to children, even if that isn’t the intention of a stepparent. Work with your partner to develop parenting boundaries so that together you relieve intense pressure often felt by children in a new family situation.
As a stepparent, it’s important to remember that you cannot replace a child’s biological parent. It’s completely OK to give children the space they need to love—and feel connected to—their biological parents, regardless of previous infidelity or marital issues in their biological parents’ previous relationship. Keeping this in mind, especially early on during the integration process, will help you and your partner set appropriate boundaries within the stepfamily and make children feel more comfortable with the situation.
3. Talk to Someone
One thing we do in couples counseling is discuss the nature of the couple’s relationship and the relationships between co-parents and children. Improving the stability and strength of these relationships is one of the best predictors of successful family integration in a stepfamily..
When you talk to a counselor or family therapist, you gain the unique perspective of someone who can bring experience and expertise into your situation. This new clarity can help you strengthen a relationship with a partner, stepchildren, or stepparents.
One of our experienced counselors can help you and your stepfamily:
Do any of these sound familiar to you? That’s likely because they are common issues reported by step mothers, step fathers, and step children. However, the list includes common ways counseling helps address these stepfamily challenges. If you’re not sure where to start, counseling can help. You’re not alone.
The best predictors of family integration and stability are the nature of the relationships between co-parents and their children and the nature of the couple relationship.
Couples Counseling can help with anger management too.
1. Before the Remarriage
It’s wise to start counseling before a remarriage even happens. Counseling is helpful before getting married, generally. Additionally, in cases where a stepfamily is created, you and your partner can use pre-marriage counselling to establish boundaries, agree on parenting norms, and discuss what you foresee as possible challenges before they happen.
2. Early Days of a Stepfamily
Even if you engage with a therapist before you remarry, there’s no doubt new issues will arise as you’re integrating your families. Co-parenting is tough and continued session can help your family smooth out the transition because you’ll gain the knowledge and tools to deal with challenges as they come up.
For example, you’ll want to make time to develop meaningful and valuable relationships with stepchildren as you get to know them. If you find this challenging or you’re looking for ways to connect with them, counseling can help you explore ideas. In another example, you might need to build a strong alliance with an ex to make sure your children feel that home life is safe and stable, despite the transition. Counseling sessions can help here too.
3. On an Ongoing Basis
Although merging families and co-parenting can feel challenging, know that there’s always help out there! We know issues can come up unexpectedly, because we know individuals process change in different ways and at different paces. Whenever you need support, it’s completely normal and encouraged to arrange for counseling.
Couples may consider divorce even when two adults are happy together because of problems in the stepparent-stepchild relationships or even conflicts between one another because of challenging stepfamily situations. In these cases, relationship counseling helps you explore all your options and potential solutions before you make any major decisions.
Expert Stepfamily Counseling for stepfamilies or remarried couples can considerably decrease the vulnerability and risk of divorce or separation. Call for relationship counseling at Couples Counseling Associates now. We’re happy to discuss your unique stepfamily situation.
Couples may consider divorce or separation even when the two adults are happy together because of problems in the stepparent-stepchild relationship.
It’s important to find the right counselor for you. A few strategies to find the right person for your situation and suited to your personality are:
In our efforts to bring value to your life, or if you are not in the Chicago area, Couples Counseling Associates has developed a series of lessons that could have a major impact on effectively improving your relationship. We encourage you to dive into the series and discover how these resources can benefit you and your partner.
Remember, it's the positive habits we develop that guarantee us success in all areas of our lives. Discover the seven healthy habits that improve relationships or get in touch with us to learn more about Couples Counseling Associates.
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An experienced couples counselor can help you find answers to common stepfamily questions:
How many families are there in a stepfamily?
What are the characteristics of successful remarried and/or stepfamilies?
How do we set up realistic expectations?
What are some of the best ways to form satisfactory relationships?
What are recommended ways to deal with power and anger issues?
Founder, Couples Counseling Associates
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Also in Arlington Heights
Associated Therapist Giulia Casani MA,LMFT
Kate Engler, LMFT, LPC
All the mental health professionals practicing at 737 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 2130, Chicago, IL 60611 or any other locations, are individually licensed by the State of Illinois and practice independently and separately. They have no legal relationship to the practices of each other and do not incur in liability for services of one another or to Dr. Sara Schwarzbaum.