Getting married is a risky business. There are no guarantees, and there are not automatic happily ever afters. And the more times you’ve been married, the more the statistics are staring you in the face, telling you that things might not work out.
Especially if children are involved, things tend to get a little complicated. No longer are you just bringing two people together in a new marriage; but you are also bringing in children who have to get to know a stepparent and adjust to different living arrangements. It can be stressful for them and for everyone involved. The reality is, being in a blended family takes a lot of adjusting.
What can you do to help everyone transition more easily, build a strong family foundation, and be the best step parent you can be? Number one, go to counseling. It makes the most sense to help you address common issues blended families and step parents face. Here are some tips to help you get started.
You can start counseling even before the divorce and/or marriage takes place; it is known as pre-stepfamily counseling. The sooner you can all get together in the therapist’s office and talk things out, the better. You can discuss expectations, help dispel fears, etc. The great thing about talking with a trained counselor is they have helped other blended families and know the common issues that may come up and how to work through them.
Blended families face unique challenges; though there are many blended families these days, no two families are alike. It also takes several years for a smooth transition to take place because there are so many factors at play. Sitting with a counselor as a full blended family unit is important. The counselor can see the new dynamic and how it will affect everyone. They will make sure everyone contributes and keeps things moving forward. Family therapy can help you see things you didn’t see before, making you a better step parent.
Whether you’re the only person who wants to go to counseling, or you need a little extra help, individual therapy is great for anyone in the family. There is a lot to gain by going alone. You can dig deep as you talk one on one with your therapist, specifically about the challenges you are seeing in the family and how to best deal with them. Improving your outlook and skills to approach issues can have a huge impact on the entire family. If you feel that any of the children need individual therapy, that is also a great option.
Blended family communication
Bringing a step parent and step kids together can be awkward at first. Therapy is a great way to establish your new blended family’s foundation of communication. Without communication, day-to-day life will just be hard. You won’t be able to get your feelings across, you won’t know where you stand, and your family unit can’t function. A therapist can help you all open up your lines of communication so you can better tackle the other issues that lay ahead.
Common issues to discuss
When going to counseling as a stepparent or as a blended family, here are some of the common issues you may discuss: helping everyone feel equally loved, figuring out new family traditions, unrealistic expectations, figuring out how to function as a family, children not getting long, biological parent taking too much control, getting over why the divorce happened, adjusting to the new marriage, step parenting, feeling a sense of loss or fear, not connecting with step children, etc. Make a habit of writing down your thoughts as they come to you, so that when you go into the therapist’s office, you already have a clear direction and can make some headway.
Finding a good counselor
If you are ready to find a good counselor to help your blended family, how do you know where to get a good one? Obviously you can do an online search and check out websites. If you do that, be sure to read the therapist’s full bio to see their qualifications and experience, and also get a sense of who they are. No all therapists are the same! Since you’ll be talking about personal issues, it’s important to find someone you can relate to and trust. The ultimate best way to find a good therapist is to ask for a referral. Though needing a therapist is not something you want to broadcast to others, you can certainly quietly as a few close friends if they know of anyone good. Remember that if your counselor isn’t helping you, then consider finding someone new. Getting a good fit for you and your family will make all the difference.