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Blended, Bothered And Bewildered Part 2

Posted in Articles,Newspaper Articles by Estalyn Monday May 14, 2007 at about 12:43 pm

Tips For Smoothing The Stepfamily Merger

Democrat and Chronicle – Living – May 25, 1999

By Staff Writer, Chris Swingle

Certain strategies can help stepfamilies succeed.
These tips were suggested by Santo Bentivegna, a licensed clinical psychologist in Brighton; Michelle Carson, a social worker at Jewish family Service of Rochester; and Estalyn Walcoff, a psychotherapist in Brighton.

• Listen, communicate, tolerate and compromise. Children’s feelings of anger, fear or frustration are normal; let them know it’s OK to feel that way.

• Practice statements that begin with the word “I” rather than verbally attacking others, such as, “I feel frustrated when I walk in and see dishes still in the sink,” instead of, “You forgot to wash the dishes again?”

• Talk with the children about different traditions, privacy issues and other areas where routines might change. Make expectations clear, such as: You don’t have to like your new stepmother, but you do have to treat her with respect.

• Get children’s input on how to solve problems.

• A stepparent shouldn’t discipline stepchildren in the first year or two. If a biological mother is out of town, she should tell the child that the stepfather is in charge, much like a baby sitter could be temporarily in charge.

• Stepparents should think of their role as similar to that of a coach, a teacher or a camp counselor, and not expect instant bonds or affection. Take cues from the child.

• Never bad-mouth the ex-spouse in front of the children.

• Stepparents shouldn’t take it personally if a stepchild rejects them. They are rejecting your role, not you. Most children cling to a fantasy that their parents will get back together, so a remarriage shatters that hope.

• Build in one-on-one time to strengthen relationships: spouse with spouse, parent with biological children, stepparent with stepchildren.

• Expect children to test the rules and be nasty for awhile, especially if they are teenagers. They want to see whether this new stepparent is going to stick around even in hard times.

• The adults in the household must present a united front and back each other up. Disagree in private about parenting or discipline.

• Children in stepfamilies say they want three things: Don’t put them in the middle of disagreements, respect them if you want them to respect you,

• and’ don’t expect them to treat stepparents like Mom or Dad.

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