Peaceful Divorce

Sensible Steps for Divorced and Stepfamilies

Last Thursday night, March 26, 2009, I presented a tele-class about issues related to re-coupling after divorce. Susan Epstein of Parenting Powers asked some great questions and contributed a stepfamily story of her own.

Below are a few of the things I talked about:

1) How fairy tales, books, and movies inaccuracy depict step families (AKA blended families).

They either portray the stepfamily as one in which they overcome many problems and then live "happily ever after"; Or the step parent, and sometimes step siblings, are "evil". In this scenario, the stepfamily member usually ends up leaving the family by the end of the story, or she/he gets offed. And that is considered a GOOD thing!

These portrayals of stepfamilies are profoundly offbase to say the least. Unfortunately, they contribute to the confusion and misconceptions that pervade our society. In fact, many children fear getting a stepmom because they hold on to this fallacious notion that she will be mean. Furthermore, many women who become stepmothers are ALSO intensely concerned about having the title of "stepmother". They detest the title so much that they go above and beyond the usual motherly acts with the hope and expectation of overcoming this wicked stereotype.

In reality, the vast majority of step parents have only good intentions. They make sincere efforts to do the right thing. However, their words and deeds do not elicit the result they expect, even though the exact same words and deeds would only have a positive result in a first-time biological family. The main reason for this difference is that first-time families are borne out of happiness and bliss, whereas step families are borne out of the many unfavorable emotions related to divorce.

I mentioned a few emotions that children often feel after the divorce, and how these emotions are manifested through ill-manners and misbehaviors. I also mentioned a few things step parents can do about these situations to possibly minimize the effect.

2) The terms "stepfamily" and "blended family" are synonymous, but I prefer the former term.

A copy of my published article, "Blended Family? Stepfamilies are Like Quilts" was on-hand for all attendees.

3) Stepparents should NOT take anything personal. Nothing the kids say is about you.

Each person in the family is mourning the loss of the original family. Parents stop mourning this loss a lot sooner than children. They fall in love with another person and get married. Instead of having a honeymoon phase like in their first marriage, they have an instant family to manage. Children have usually not fallen in love with the step parent when the family unites into 1 house as a step (blended) family. This adversely affects their opinion of the stepparent, as well as everything the stepparent does. Even if the child says he/she hates you or disobeys you, remember that it is NOT ABOUT YOU. The child is really expressing how he feels about his/her new environment and family. Still, this is about the loss of the original family. It has nothing to do with the addition of a new person into the family as much as it is to do with NOT having the other parent around.

4) Respect the past family history and differences of personalities or habits.

It is human nature to reject what we don't understand, which is usually anything different than ourselves. Other people and families do things very different than what we do. When one family marries another, 2 diverse groups of habits and personalities are coming together. Some of the things each one does may conflict or interfere with the ways of the other family. This is one source of contention and arguments between siblings. In first-time biological families, the family members have already developed ways of resolving the conflict, as they've had many years together to learn how to deal with the other family members. They reach the point of accepting these differences as natural. However, dissimilar attitudes and behaviors of stepfamily members are considered weird or deviant. I discuss this a little more in detail in my published article, "Who's on the Inside? Who's on the Outside?"

Think of creative ways to resolve conflicting family habits. Both Susan and myself shared a short story from our own experiences.

5) Creating memories and taking advantage of bonding moments are extremely important.

Stepfamilies lack previous history and memories as a "family". This means that step parents have to patiently listen to their step children talk about their "family" memories with both biological parents, which does not include the step parent. It takes time for the step parent to create new memories with him/her included as part of the new family. Therefore, vacations to new places and having a weekly or bi-monthly family night is recommended. I also recommend you take pictures in order to capture the fond moments and reminisce about them later. Place the pictures on the wall or mantle, which will help to establish a healthy family environment of good memories.

Eating meals as a family is a superb way of becoming a more cohesive stepfamily. It is a time to get to know the new family members, build rapport, and bond as a family. I highly recommend eating together as a family - both biological and stepfamily members. If this cannot be done daily, a good-faith effort should be made to do it as often as possible, even if only once or twice per week. Connie Fitzmartin has some great suggestions for making mealtime fun in her book, Magical Meals Manual. It is worth the time to check out. You'll be glad you did.

Judy The Stepfamily Coach
Repairing and building relationships in step and adopted families
through Sensible Steps,
Solutions for Today's Families
Twitter: StepfamilyCoach
Skype: judygraybill

Views: 12


You need to be a member of Peaceful Divorce to add comments!

Join Peaceful Divorce

Comment by Judy M. Graybill on April 9, 2009 at 10:27am
Thank you, Cynthia. I'm glad you appreciate the message and want to make it more accessible and visible to your visitors.

Judy The Stepfamily Coach
Comment by Cynthia Tiano, Esq. on April 1, 2009 at 10:16pm
Judy, thank you for this wonderful post. I have featured it on the main page.


Become an affiliate of the Happily Divorced! book and audio program! Let Reformed "Killer" Divorce Attorney, Cynthia Tiano, and Dr. Max Vogt, Marriage and Family Psychologist, take you on an adventure into the lives of two families going through the divorce legal system - one doing "legal battle" and the other creating a "peaceful divorce". Learn how to create a Win-Win from their experiences...


Latest Activity

Robert D. Bordett, CFP, CDFA posted a blog post

What About the House?

Going through divorce means dealing with hundreds of details, some more important than others. One detail that merits extra contemplation is how to deal with the marital home.Does one spouse want to keep it because the children still live there? You don't want to disrupt their lives any more than is already happening. What if the children are grown? Do you still need that much of a house?Here are the three most common means of dealing with the house in divorce:Selling the house and dividing the…See More
Apr 24
Robert D. Bordett, CFP, CDFA posted a blog post

Child Support for Special Needs Children

We know that the divorce rate among all couples is about 50%, but there is no question that divorce rates are even higher among parents of children with special needs.Below is an article that was written by Dr. Howard Drutman and Marsha Schechtman, LCSW. In this article, they talk about the considerations that must be understood about the special needs child. In addition to their information, we also have to think…See More
Mar 28
Robert D. Bordett, CFP, CDFA posted a blog post

An Email From the IRS? Don't Believe It

Scam artists have developed a new tactic in cheating taxpayers out of their hard-earned money.Transcript fraud is when taxpayers are lured into opening an attachment that is supposed to be their tax transcript. In fact, the attachment contains malware that will intercept all of your outgoing data, with the intent of capturing account numbers. From there, the thieves withdraw the money and the taxpayer is left without…See More
Feb 21
Robert D. Bordett, CFP, CDFA posted a blog post

2018 Taxes & Divorce: There Is Still Time

If you are getting divorced or just got divorced the last thing on your mind is taxes. It is important to remember that if you got divorced anytime in 2018 (even Dec. 31, 2018), you will be considered divorced for the whole year of 2018. What does that mean for taxes?It could mean a higher tax bill than you thought.  If you are receiving alimony this year it will be taxable to you.  If you are…See More
Dec 28, 2018
Robert D. Bordett, CFP, CDFA posted a blog post

Tax Tips for the Recently Divorced

We are only 4 weeks away from the end of the year. What does that mean for people who have gotten divorced in 2018?It means you have to get ready to file your tax returns for the year ending 2018 by April 15, 2019, or else extend it. Remember, just because you extend it, you still have to pay any tax that you owe by April 15, 2019.If you got divorced in 2017, here are some items you need to think about for tax…See More
Dec 12, 2018
Robert D. Bordett, CFP, CDFA posted a blog post

An Elegant Solution: The Child Support Account

Today I’m pleased to bring you a special guest blog written by my colleague Steve Erickson. In his 35 years of experience, Steve has come up with a novel approach to child support that shifts couples away from being adversarial and toward collaboration. This method is called the Child Support Account, and it was originally proposed…See More
Nov 15, 2018
Robert D. Bordett, CFP, CDFA posted a blog post

Withholding: A Down Payment, not a Tax

In my experience, many people do not know the difference between the withholding amount (the taxes deducted on your pay stub) and their tax liability. All they know is that they don’t have the money. They think they’re square with the government, and are surprised if they owe any amount on top of what was withheld. That’s why I thought it would be useful to review the…See More
Oct 25, 2018
Robert D. Bordett, CFP, CDFA posted a blog post

Divorce & Support Payments – When Can You Use it to Qualify for a Mortgage?

One of the things I have learned over the years is that we cannot be a Jack-of-all-trades and a master-of-none. In today’s ever-changing world, we need to have connections with professionals in other disciplines and specialities. This is especially true with divorce professionals. I think it is important that practitioners have a network of specialists on which to draw. Today I am going to do just…See More
Oct 4, 2018
Robert D. Bordett, CFP, CDFA posted a blog post

Projecting Your 2018 Taxes

Have you thought about doing a tax projection for 2018?Obviously, this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, no one wants to be surprised around tax time. Here’s why you should get a head start on knowing the new tax law and how it will affect you and/or your business in the coming tax year.We are seven months into the New Year. You may not be aware that we have a new tax law that went into effect on December 22, 2017, or that most of the provisions took effect on January 1, 2018.Here are some…See More
Aug 23, 2018
Robert D. Bordett, CFP, CDFA posted a blog post

Mediators: The Swiss Army Knife of Divorce

Today I’m featuring an article by a colleague of mine named Martin Kranitz. Martin, a mediator in Maryland, has obtained certification from the Maryland Council for Dispute Resolution, one of the first organizations to provide mediator certification based on demonstrated performance rather than just education and mediation courses taken.  In this piece, Martin discusses one of the many functions a mediator can play,…See More
Jul 12, 2018
Robert D. Bordett, CFP, CDFA posted a blog post

The Top 3 Reasons to Choose Mediation

As attitudes change about marriage and divorce, mediation has become an attractive alternative to traditional litigation. Still, some people are wary of it. The good news is that the facts support mediation, and in this post I provide a “cheat sheet” to help you persuade a reticent spouse into the process.Control: You and your spouse get to control the speed of the process. You both get to make…See More
Jun 5, 2018
Robert D. Bordett, CFP, CDFA posted a blog post

Things We Don’t Think About When Getting Divorced

Financial issues are a big part of the difficulty of divorce, in part because people don’t realize there are certain contracts that take precedence over divorce decrees. In fact, that’s the number one misconception that people seem to have. Being able to identify financial issues can help take away some of the pitfalls and stresses that can arise…See More
May 31, 2018




© 2019   Created by Cynthia Tiano, Esq..   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service