Parenting in a Blended Family (page 2)
Divorce leaves many children in single-parent or blended families. But blended families have a whole different set of rules than a nuclear family. One of the first questions people want to know is, how does the new couple agree on a parenting style and discipline?
Every newly blended family has a period of confusion, and everyone just has to work though it. In general, it takes 5-7 years for the family to come together and function in a cohesive family unit. Usually by then, the roles are clarified and comfortable to everybody.
What if the new parent has a different parenting style?
It's not necessary for the adults to have the same style, but it is important to be comfortable with and support each other's style. Children will adjust to the differences, and it will help them learn how to deal with differences when they grow up. So when the adults of the house agree on basic rules and enforce them, the child gets a message about what is allowed and expected.
So what is a proper role for the new stepparent to play with stepchildren?
It depends a lot on the relationship the absent parent plays in the childrens' lives, as well as the age of the child.
There are three basic roles the stepparent takes:
- The older the child, the more he needs you to be just a friend - to talk, offer support, just enjoy each other. Teens are most comfortable with this role. They don't want another parent. Give advice, tell about your experiences, let them see your wisdom.
- Most people know you can never replace the birth parent. So acknowledge that you are the Other Parent. However, it's right to believe that you are an important adult who is now part of the child's life. You may find anger, disrespect, loyalty conflicts and all the rest, but you are entitled to a permanent place in the family, even though you are not the biological parent.
- The younger the child is, the more opportunity there is to assume the typical role of Parent. Young children need guidance and support from adults in general, and it doesn't take long for discipline to become part of that relationship.
How can I learn about the services Heartland Family Service offers for divorcing families?
Call (402) 553-3000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on our range of services for divorcing families, with an emphasis on parenting the children.
Reprinted with the permission of the Heartland Family Service. © 2008 Heartland Family Service
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