Stepfamily, Blended Families, Stepparents, Remarried Couples or Committed Partners
Stepfamily counseling can help support couples through the ups and downs or remarriage, step-parenting, or co-parenting.
Whether you or your partner became a stepparent due to divorce, remarriage, a new committed relationship, or the death of a spouse, stepfamily counseling can support you through the challenges you’ll face.
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 helps stepfamilies reduce friction between family members and develop mutual respect for one another. It also helps you and your partner become a strong unit to weather the storms that inevitably occur in a stepfamily situation.
Tips to Manage a Stepfamily Integration
1. Build Trust
According to family research, stepfamilies—which we define as “his,” her,” or “our” children living together some of the time—are vulnerable to conflicts and disagreements. That’s not surprising considering a new family is just that—new! It’s not easy getting used to any 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 and 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.
When you talk to a counselor or family therapist, you gain the unique perspective of someone who can bring experience and expertise to your situation. The clarity can help you strengthen a relationship with a partner, stepchildren, or stepparents.
One of our experienced counselors can help you and your stepfamily:
- Negotiate household arrangements with children
- Establish who disciplines children
- Increase acceptance of different parenting styles
- Identify what problems can be solved and what problems need ongoing management
- Manage conflicting loyalties
- Explore if family integration is possible and, if it seems too tough, learn what tactics can help your unique situation
- Discuss who feels included or excluded from the family
- Establish respected family boundaries
- Identify where weak bonds exist between stepfamily members and how to strengthen them
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, as well as the nature of the couple relationship.
When To Get Started With Stepfamily Counseling
1. Before the Remarriage
It’s wise to start counseling before a remarriage even happens. In cases where a stepfamily is created, you and your partner can use pre-marriage counseling to establish boundaries, agree on parenting norms, and discuss what you foresee as possible challenges.
2. Early Days of a Stepfamily
Even if you engage with a therapist before you remarry, new issues will arise when you integrate your families. Co-parenting is tough and continued sessions can help your family smooth out the transition. You’ll gain the knowledge and tools to deal with challenges as they come up.
For example, 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, you can explore ideas in counseling. 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 be happy together, but still consider separation because of a stepparent-stepchild relationship. Or, separately, conflicts between one another arise 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.
Consider Stepfamily Counseling Before Making Major Decisions
Couples may consider divorce or separation even when the two adults are happy together because of problems in the stepparent-stepchild relationship. Expert stepfamily counseling can considerably decrease the vulnerability and risk of divorce or separation. Get in touch with us. We’re happy to discuss your unique stepfamily situation.
How to Find the Right Counselor for You and Your Family
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:
- Ask for referrals. Chances are someone close to you has seen a therapist before or sees one now. If you’re uncomfortable asking someone personally, you can search forums online, localized listings, or even through your health insurance.
- Call up a therapist or schedule an individual session. It’s important that you “click” with your therapist. After all, therapists are human, and like other humans out there, you connect with some and not with others. Feeling comfortable with your counselor is extremely important in order to get the most out of your sessions.
- Look into affordability. Make sure you double-check rates or insurance coverage with a therapist so you’re worry-free going into your sessions.
- Learn more about Couples Counseling Associates
- Learn how to find the right couples counselor for you and your family
- Find books that can help enrich your blended family
- Read about unhealthy relationships and how counseling can help
- Make an appointment with Couples Counseling Associates in Chicago
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 the recommended ways to deal with power and anger issues?
More Resources for You and Your Partner
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.