Ten Common Mistakes For The Stepfamily
Presented by the Stepfamily Foundation. Written by Jeannette Lofas, Ph.D., LCSW
- Dealing with the stepfamily as though it were and intact family. It will not and cannot function as does a biological family.
- Not learning the dynamics of step and how stepfamilies function.
- The couple does not know how to partner or how build couple strength. Through couple strength we act as heads of the household. We agree upon roles and rules in this house.
- Allowing the children to dominate. The male and female heads of the household provide no models, forms and norms as to "how" we live and act with each other.
- The couple does not establish "The Rules of This House." House Rules are defined and agreed to by the couple. We come from different ways of living and seldom agree on the new structure needed in our stepfamily. Most of our clients are assisted by short term counseling. It is important work to have these differences come to the surface and be solved. The couple must work out the rules, responsibilities, manners, discipline, time, energy, money and duties. The couple needs to define the job descriptions of each member of the stepfamily.
- The absent biological father. The absent biological father upon visitation may not feel there is time to take on his role as Father.. He may be driven by the fear of loosing the affections of his children. He sees them so little. However, as their father and .,........the male head of the household and teacher to the children of the male ways of being. Through the guilt of divorce so many men feel they see their children sometimes only four days a month put aside the need to discipline, set boundaries, and the role of “father.” We need to eliminate the role of the Disneyland daddy of divorce and in its place put back the role of father.
- Guilt. Guilt is a negative emotion. So often we see both fathers and mothers who have custody, i.e., the parents of the children because they feel they have not been there enough allow the children to dominate the custodial or non-custodial household.
- The bad mouthing prior spouse. When we bad mouth and put down the other parent of our children we are bad-mouthing and disparaging half of that child. Less than half of divorced parents today realize that bad mouthing their ex lowers the self esteem of their child.
- Visitation. Allowing visitation to become a chaotic episode we allow the child to be caught in a cross fire. Visitation needs to be cast in cement. We need to agree on exact hours of pick up and delivery and expectation regarding clothing, homework, etc.
- The Cruel Step Mother.
Allowing ourselves to become the cruel stepmother/father by falling into the pitfalls of the dynamic of step. As stepmother/father we need to build couple strength and consensus with our spouse on how we do things in this house. The biological parent discipline the stepparent says “In this house...”
The Stepfamily Foundation Inc. is a not for profit, formed in 1975 to inform and counsel those who live in re-coupled families. Counseling is done on the telephone worldwide and in person in New York City and the East End of Long Island . It also conducts Certification Seminars for professionals, coaches, clergy and attorneys.
Dr. Jeannette Lofas is the President and Founder of the Stepfamily Foundation, Inc., and the author of Stepparenting, Family Rules, Living In Step, and He’s OK, She’s OK. She is a lecturer and noted journalist, and has been counseling stepfamilies for over thirty years.Dr. Lofas is licensed social worker and a certified mediator. She is a member of such organizations as The Association for Family Conflict and Conciliation, The Center for Family and Divorce Mediation and The New York State Council on Divorce Mediation.