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Remarriages and Step-Parenting

Remarriages and step-parenting can be rewarding. However, the transition can be difficult for both the children and the new step-parents. One the one hand, the children have to accommodate the new caregivers and siblings. On the other hand, caregivers deal with their ex-spouses, child support, and managing the children. This paper will discuss the challenges such type of families experience, the stages of adjustments, and ways to deal with stepchildren.

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The rate of divorced parents remarrying is high, which is approximately 60%, and due to this, the number of stepfamilies is growing (Higginbotham & Adler-Baeder, 2018). In the 1700-1800s, there were also high remarriage rates though it was due to deaths of the partner where people divorce then remarry. Stepfamilies are complex to handle as compared to an intact family. There could be issues of rejection of a child, which may lead to the step-parent’s confusion on their role in the family. Children are likely to have insecurities towards their step-parents because they fear disloyalty. If the child is being forced to respond to the new parents as though it was their birth parent, it may lead to rebellion and hostility towards the parents (Higginbotham & Adler-Baeder, 2018). The step-parents may also feel guilty because they may not receive acknowledgment and gratitude from the stepchildren. Guilt also intervenes if they do not have feelings that they initially had towards their partner’s child. Sexual tensions are also high in stepfamilies because the members have not been raised together. Therefore, the parents need to control their children to avoid sexual relations with each other.

According to research, stepfamilies come across development stages and adjustment periods, taking about seven years to complete (Ganong & Coleman, 2018). The first and early-stage is a fantasy where the new parents hope for immediate acceptance instead of building a personal relationship with their stepchildren and giving them space to know the parent better. The step-parents have to understand that they cannot walk into someone’s life and expect to be welcomed. The other stage is immersion, where the children have to adopt having a new stepmother or stepfarther. At this stage, the children can feel a sense of betrayal from their natural parents because they are not with them all the time, and they can think that they are abandoned. The third stage is where members consider their feelings and start mapping out their territories. Children in this stage begin to feel separated from their biological family, and the birth parents will show resentfulness. Mobilization is the stage where the step-parents are more interested in being respected as a family member rather than pleasing them (Raiely & Sweeney, 2020). The children may begin expressing their frustrations. The final step is where the relationships in the family begin to be genuine and more intimate. There is also more stability and security in the family.

Step-parents need to be aware of several pointers in order to avoid miscommunication in the future. The first is that the step-parent must not replace the children’s biological parents but must be an additional parenting figure. A child cannot have many loving adults in their lives, and therefore, a step-parent must allow them to have a relationship with their biological parents. Second, one must not expect instant acceptance from their stepchildren. Instead, they should build a relationship with them and provide space for them to know their step-parents. Respect the stepchildren’s feelings and get involved without expectations is also a must (Ganong et al., 2019). It is not advisable to jump into the disciplinarian role early. The parent must know them first and be in a supportive role. The biological parents are ideally supposed to be the disciplinarian. Moreover, step-parents should be able to protect their children from conflicts. Even though one may have fights with one’s stepchildren’s parents, they should try not to get the children involved. This will create loyalty between the stepchildren and the parent because they will feel respected and, in turn, respect their step-parent. No matter how the stepchildren treat the step-parent, it is important to get used to holding one’s words and instead focus on how one is going to build a long-term relationship. Lastly, as step-parents, one should support one’s partner in having personal time with their children (Raly & Sweeney, 2020). The mistake parents often do is trying to do everything together and not giving one’s spouse and their children to bond. The children are likely to resent because they need a one-on-one bond with their parents.

As a result of research, remarriages and stepfamilies should focus more on building communication, which should be open and frequent. This will bring more connection and create fewer opportunities for miscommunication. Communication says a lot about the trust levels between family members. It is advisable to talk as much as possible to remove any uncertainty about family issues. Moreover, step-parents should avoid holding grudges and keeping emotions bottled up, instead addressing all conflicts positively. Lastly, people need to learn how to listen to others respectfully and establish a non-judgmental atmosphere. Engagement in inactivates together to provide chances for a communication is also essential.

References

Ganong, L., & Coleman, M. (2018). Studying stepfamilies: Four eras of family scholarship. Family Process.

Ganong, L., Jensen, T., Sanner, C., Russell, L., Coleman, M., & Chapman, A. (2019). Linking stepfamily functioning, marital quality, and steprelationship quality. Family Relations, 64), 469−483.

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Higginbotham, B. J., & Adler-Baeder, F. (2018). Assessing beliefs about remarriages and stepfamilies: The remarriage belief inventory. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 483-4), 33−54.

Raly, K., & Sweeney, M. M. (2020). Divorce, partnering, and stepfamilies: A decade in review. Journal of Marriage and Family, 82(1), 81−99.

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