Coral Springs

 

1725 N. University Drive

Suite 350

Coral Springs, FL 33071

Telephone: (954) 227-2700

Fax: (954) 227-2704

Linda Berlin, Psy.D.

&

Psychological Associates

Boca Raton

 

7000 W. Palmetto Park Road

Suite 407

Boca Raton, FL 33433

Telephone: (561) 347-0997

Fax: (561) 347-0996

 

Facts & Statistics

Current estimates from 1988-1990 suggest:

Information from the most recent Vital Statistics Report (1998) shows:

Of American children under 18 years of age:

There are no recent estimates on the percentage of children residing in stepfamilies.

Our most recent information is from 1990 and shows that of the children under 18 years of age living in two-parent households:

These statistics underestimate the number of U.S. stepfamilies, because...

To date, government reporting of population figures indicate families in which the child resides. So if the child lives with a divorced, single parent and the other nonresident parent has remarried, the child is not included in the calculations as being a member of a stepfamily.

Estimation efforts by Bumpass, Raley, and Sweet (1995), using data from 1987-1988 suggest that many children living in a "single parent household" (as designated by the Census Bureau) are actually living with two adults. Thus, their best estimates indicate that about 25% of current stepfamilies are actually cohabiting couples.

Other information from 1988-1990 sources:

Sources:

Bumpass, L.L., Raley, R.K., & Sweet, J.A. (1995). The changing character of stepfamilies: Implications of cohabitation and nonmarital childbearing, Demography.

Norton, A.J., & Miller, L.F. (1992), Marriage, divorce, and remarriage in the 1990s, Current Population Reports (Series P23-180), Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

U.S. Bureau of the Census (1998), Marital status and living arrangements, Current Population Reports (Series P20-514), Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ten Principles for Successful Stepparenting

By: Barbra Warsetsky, LCSW 

As one enters the new world of stepparenting they take on the commitment to a relationship between their spouse and the children he/she brings to this union. Creating a blended family is not a recent phenomenon and statistically the numbers continue to grow as the rate of divorce continues to increase.  Establishing a new family unit is about love, but it brings with it inherent difficulties of melding different personalities, customs, cultures, and loyalties.  In order to make this a smooth transition and one that will continue to strengthen the family bond these are some guidelines that you might find helpful in navigating your role as stepparent. The key to successfully implementing the following principals is to recognize that helping children adjust to the new situation will go a long way toward increasing harmony in your home.   

Principle 1:  Listen Carefully

Children need to know that they have been heard.  Creating ways in which they know you were listening to them will earn the respect needed for effective discipline. Reflective listening can help to achieve this.  Listening to your child does not preclude you from making your own decision however, it garners respect and aids in fostering a child’s self-esteem. 

Principle 2:  Be Flexible

Being flexible is important because visitation and custody arrangements can get complicated.  Children and parents schedules can both change due to unforeseen circumstances creating friction at times.  If the scheduling does not work out, be willing to trade days because in the future you may need to change a date due to circumstances beyond your control.   Adding the word flexibility to your toolbox will go along way to smoothing out these transitions.  The more flexible you are the more the other parent has the opportunity to feel they too can bend. Remember you are always role models for your children and stepchildren and it is not their responsibility to work out visitation.  

Principle 3:  Be Sensitive to Feelings of Loss

Be aware that when children are going back and forth between homes that they may re experience feelings related to the ending of your previous marriage and the breakup of the family they once had. This tends to bring up feelings of grief and loss. Establishing a routine of not going directly home from the other parents home will aide in this transition. Stopping to pick up dinner, or running any errand will break up the moments between the travel and give a smoother passage between homes. 

Principle 4:  Encourage Communication Between Siblings

Relationships with new siblings take time to develop.  One needs to allow time for the growth of these relationships.  Establishing activities that will promote a feeling of togetherness will go along way towards increasing family harmony. Promoting communication through e-mail, letter writing, phone calls, or sending cards is an example of working on this communication in-between visits. 

Principle 5:  Create Family History

Creating new traditions and rituals that will become your family customs will also help lay the foundation of this new sense of family. Some examples would be establishing a Friday night game night, rotating who makes breakfast for the family on Sunday morning, or planning and picking a menu to create and execute together. 

Principle 6:  Spend Individual Time With Each Child

Set aside time so that each child is treated as an individual and is allowed to feel special.  This might include driving them to baseball, soccer, dance, gymnastics or any other activity your child is involved in. The car is a wonderful place where you are in control of the distractions, it is a perfect opportunity to use for alone time to talk together. Other suggestions are to find something that you can do together like playing a game, cooking, shopping, taking a walk or a bike ride, anything that promotes spending one on one time together.  The message received by the child is that I am important enough for you to spend time with me. 

Principle 7: Let Children Have Choices

Establishing a comfort level with your stepchildren is what is most important. Let the children have a choice in what they want to call you.  Sometimes even wonderful stepparents can be ignored by their stepchildren.  Children feel extremely loyal to their biological parents and see it as a disloyalty if they get close to their stepparent and may even feel confused at times. As time goes by and relationships grow among all parties this too can change. Spending time with each child in the family promotes being connected and establishes a sense of belonging. 

Principle 8:  Present a United Parental Front Towards Discipline

Discipline is a major issue.  Always present a united front.  In the beginning it is usually judicious that the biological parent be in charge of the discipline.  As the stepparent gains respect and establishes their relationship over time discipline needs to shift and come from both biological parent and stepparent. When the stepparent is left in charge of the children they need to enforce rules and remain in charge. Discipline should continue to be enforced with the existing rules and set boundaries.  Discussions of house rules and boundaries need to have been established in private, so that a united front can be presented to the children and everyone understands the rules and what is expected of them. 

Principle 9:  Establish a Family Meeting Schedule

Create opportunities where everyone gets a turn to express their feelings regarding all of the changes including new rules and schedules. Family meetings provide a perfect time to be able to voice opinions and to be heard. These meetings help establish new norms and roles for family members.  As a result relationships become more defined, which can enhance the formation of family norms.    

Principle 10:  Nurture Your Marriage

In addition to the bond you are forming with your new family, it is also important to set aside time to nurture your relationship with your spouse. That means a date night out even if the only activity you can manage is taking a walk around your neighborhood alone.  The foundation that you created in this new marriage is what the children will see and experience.  You are their role models for future success of most of their relationships.

Conclusion

In conclusion one of the most important things to remember is that children are resilient.  They have the ability to adjust to new situations and readapt.  This can be viewed as a positive opportunity to be part of a new family and how with work, cooperation, and faith these new relationships can enrich their lives. This will carry over into their adult lives when they choose a partner and begin this process of creating a new family once again.  With help and guidance they can do this with the least amount of heartache and learn to grow from the loss of the family they once had and to find acceptance and new challenges in their blended family.

If you or your children are having difficulty with this process of blending families you are not alone.  There is help in the community.  Speaking to a professional counselor can provide the support, guidance, structure, and information that will lead to successful blended families.

* * *

Barbra Warsetsky LCSW has treated adults, children, and families for twenty-five years.  She practices in the office of Linda Berlin, Psy.D. & Psychological Associates in Coral Springs and Boca Raton.  To learn more about stepparenting, Ms. Warsetsky may be reached at (954)227-2700 or (561)347-0997 or click here for more information about Barbra Warsetsky, LCSW.

Read Barbra Warsetsky's article on Bereavement.

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