Blended Families: 7 Stages – 8 Steps | GR8 Relationships

"...but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. - Exodus 20:6   

The following information is from Old Loyalties, New Ties by Emily Visher and John Visher. There are some copies on Amazon.com, but they are used and somewhat expensive.   

7 Stages of Emotional Development   

1. Fantasy: “It won’t happen to us.”

  • Adults expect instant love and adjustment
  • Children try to ignore stepparent—hope they will go away—biological parents will be reunited

2. False-assimilation: “Of course we’re one big happy family.”

Blended Family
  • Attempts to realize fantasies
  • Vague sense that things are not going well
  • Increasing negativitySplits along biological lines
  • Step parents feel something is wrong with them

3. Awareness: “ I see what’s bothering me but I don’t dare tell you.”

  • Growing awareness of family pressures
  • Stepparent begins to perceive what changes are needed
  • Parent feels pulled between needs of children and of new spouse
  • Groups divide along biological lines
  • Children may observe and exploit differences between couple

4. Mobilization: “You’re wrong, that’s not the way it is.”

  • Strong emotions begin to be expressed, often leading to arguments
  • Stepparent clear on need to changeParent fears change will bring loss
  • Sharp division between biological groups
  • Stepparent with no children is in isolated position and lacks support

5. Action: “It’s hard but we’ll work it out together.”

  • Couple begins working together in attempts to find solutions
  • Family structure changes
  • Boundaries are clarified
  • Children may resist changes

6. Contact: “We’re all getting closer.”

  • Couple working well together
  • Closer bonding between stepparent-stepchild and other steprelations
  • Stepparent has definite role with stepchildren
  • Boundaries are clear
  • More ability to deal with the larger family system issues

7. Resolution: “It’s different and it’s OK.”

  • Stepfamily identity is secure
  • When difficulties arise family may regress to earlier stages, but moves ahead quickly
  • Usual difficulties are around specific family events involving the larger family system

8 Tasks for New Blended Families

1. Deal with Losses and Changes

  • Identify/recognize losses for all individuals
  • Support expressions of sadness
  • Help children talk and not act out feelings
  • Read stepfamily books
  • Make changes gradually
  • See that everyone gets a turn
  • Inform children of plans involving them
  • Accept the insecurity of change

2. Negotiate Different Developmental Needs

  • Take a child development and/or parenting class
  • Accept validity of the different life cycle phases
  • Communicate individual needs clearly
  • Negotiate incompatible needs
  • Develop tolerance and flexibility

3. Establish New Traditions

  • Recognize traditions are different not necessarily right or wrong
  • Concentrate on important situations only
  • Stepparents take on discipline enforcement slowly
  • Use family meetings for problem solving and giving appreciation
  • Shift “standards” slowly whenever possible
  • Retain/combine appropriate rituals
  • Enrich with new creative traditions

4. Develop a Solid Couple Bond

  • Accept couple as primary long term relationship
  • Nourish couple relationship
  • Plan for couple “alone time”
  • Decide general household rules as a couple
  • Support one another with the children
  • Expect and accept different parent-child stepparent-stepchild feelings
  • Work out money matters together

5. Form New Relationships

  • Fill in past histories
  • Create stepparent-stepchild 1:1 time
  • Parent make space for stepparent-stepchild relationship
  • Do not expect “instant love” and adjustment
  • Be fair to stepchildren even when caring has not developed
  • Follow children’s lead in what to call stepparent
  • Do fun things together

6. Create a Parenting Coalition

  • Deal directly with parenting adults in other household
  • Parents keep children out of the middle
  • Do not talk negatively about adults in other household
  • Control what you can and accept limitations
  • Avoid power struggles between households
  • Respect parenting skills of former spouse
  • Contribute own “specialness” to children
  • Communicate between households in most effective manner

7. Accept Continual Shifts in Household Composition

  • Allow children to enjoy their households
  • Give children time to adjust to household transitions
  • Avoid asking children to be “messengers/spies”
  • Consider teenager’s serious desire to change residence
  • Respect privacy (boundaries) of all households
  • Set consequences that affect own household only
  • Provide personal place for non-resident children
  • Plan special times for various household groupings

8. Risk Involvement Despite Little Support

  • Include stepparents in school, religious, sports etc. activities
  • Give legal permission for stepparent to act when necessary
  • Continue stepparent-stepchild relationships after death or divorce of parent when caring has developed
  • Stepparent include self in stepchild’s activities
  • Find groups supportive of stepfamilies
  • Remember that all relationships involve risk

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