by Jeannette Lofas, Ph.D., LCSW
Stepfamilies are one of the predominate forms of family in America today. Sadly, though, two out of three of these families fail.
Typically, most remarried families complain of the chaos, disorder, and disrespect they encounter in their new family unit. Frequently these families report they do not feel connected, and the disruption they are facing was totally unexpected.
To head off the chaos, the adults in such disconnected families often engage in benching, that is, they take the kids off the team. Picture this: It’s dinnertime, the parents are cooking, and the kids are "benched" on the couch watching TV. What's wrong with this picture?
Few remarried families feel like a team, though. Most parents somehow just don't consider that their family has to be created anew. Instead, they rely on their old ideas and perceptions of how a family works. After all, that’s all they have.
But creating the family all over again is just what they need. Specifically, the adults in disconnected remarried families must create a stepfamily team. Well-informed coaching—such as through the Stepfamily Foundation—can help the parents in blended families to establish new forms, norms, and discipline. Through coaching, both adults and children will learn new roles, rules, responsibilities, and more.
Eventually, the parent and stepparent become the head coaches of the team. They are then in a position to put the children “on the inside” of the family by asking the kids to participate in all family activities. Working and playing alongside each other, both children and the parent and stepparent will be on the road to a more orderly and respectful household.