Step-Families Often Have Unrealistic Expectations

by John E. Turner, LMFT and Sally R. Connolly,LMFT

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When two people fall in love, they naturally want their families to blend right away and immediately get along with each other. This is very unrealistic an
d sets the stage for disappointment, hurt and anger by all involved.

Some of the other misconceptions that step-families have are:

  • Children will accept the new stepparent with open arms, courtesy and pleasure.
  • The stepmother will be able to be kind, gentle and loving enough that the children will quickly fall in love with her.
  • The stepfather will be able to immediately handle discipline problems with the children so that they will accept authority and rules.
  • Stepparents often expect that the children will really like each other and enjoy having a larger family.
  • There will not be any problems with choosing common rules for children in this new unit.
  • The new stepparents will really like and, even come to love, their stepchildren.
  • This new loving step-family can “overcome” the influence of the other family.

What should you expect in a step-family?

  • It generally takes one or two years for step-families to say that they are finally okay.
  • Stepchildren will only accept discipline (teaching) from someone that they respect and with whom they have formed a relationship.
  • Patience and lots of loving communication will be required because it takes a long time for people to feel comfortable in a step-family.
  • Stepparents and stepchildren may only get to the place of learning to get along. The relationship may never get deeper than that.
  • In a step-family, stress and struggle are the norm.
  • Natural parents from “the other” family cannot be criticized in front of the children without causing problems in your family relationships.
  • The adults in the step-family must be the grown-ups and demonstrate lots of flexibility and understanding.

Would you like some practical ideas for how to improve life in your step-family.  Contact us at Counseling Relationships Online.