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  • Stepfamily Relationships

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    The myth of the blended family

    Much of the literature regarding stepfamilies use the term blended family. I do not personally or professionally think this term is appropriate for what occurs in a stepfamily. I prefer the terms stepfamily, combined family or 2nd family.

    The National Stepfamily Resource Center regards the term blended families as, “a catchy media phrase that does not describe either a family relationship or what happens when at least one partner to a marriage brings children from a prior relationship.”

    Stepfamilies operate differently than 1st families; and often there is a profound sense of loss, resistance, change, pressure and shame tangled together to be like a 1st family or to blend. Buying into the blended family myth causes undue emotional distress. What does it say about you or your stepfamily if you are not blending; finding it hard to accept, adjust and navigate your specific role in your stepfamily?

    Stepfamily Adjustment

    Everyone in the family system is impacted by a stepfamily forming as any change in the family system impacts each member of that system. Some family members may be impacted more or less than others as each person handles adjustment differently. The very presence of a stepfamily indicates the experience of loss of some kind as well as change. It is important to keep in mind, that not all stepfamilies begin with divorce.

    Whether a simple stepfamily, where only one adult brings children or a complex stepfamily, where both adults bring children; stepfamily architecture creates many major challenges that can be overwhelming in the best of circumstances. I mostly see the 1st family parent or the stepparent in my practice that is struggling to adapt to their role. It is very important to understand that ex-spouses; other parents (dead or alive) are part of the new stepfamily.

    Due to outdated stereotypes associated with the Cinderella effect, stepparents are frequently seen in a negative light. Research shows that stepmothers have it far worse than stepfathers. This can be a very difficult experience for a loving stepparent to navigate, especially when they are striving very hard to support children transitioning into the stepfamily unit.

    I have expertise supporting clients through stepfamily adjustment; whether you are new to stepfamily life or have been in a stepfamily for some time.