Characteristics of Successful Stepfamilies

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The Vishers define a successful stepfamily as one who is successfully meeting the challenges so that the majority is generally satisfied with their new family arrangement. They have also identified characteristics of successful stepfamilies. Think about how your family is doing in response to the following characteristics:

Losses have been mourned. Stepfamilies often are formed out of loss. Adults and children in successful stepfamilies acknowledge these losses but are ready tomove on to new way of family life. They are looking to the future. Often visiting with others who have dealt with or who are dealing with similar situations can be helpful in this transition.

Expectations are realistic. One who holds realistic expectations about stepfamily life will understand and accept its realities while resisting a belief in itscommon myths noted earlier. Knowing what to expect will help you be patient with stepfamily integration, which can take from one and a half to five or six years, depending in part on the ages of the children.

There is a strong, unified couple. Even though it may seem like trying to “have a honeymoon in the midst of a crowd,” the successfully remarried couple plans enough time alone together to nourish their relationship.

Constructive rituals and traditions are established. Traditions related to holidays and special events are important ways for families to be together. Successful stepfamilies continue the traditions established in earlier families or combine them to form new traditions.

Satisfactory step-relationships have formed. Step-relationships take time to grow and develop. Successful stepfamilies have an awareness of this and work formutual satisfaction.

The separate households cooperate. Resident and nonresident parents have developed a parenting coalition. Instead of competing with one another, cooperative parents focus on the best interests of the child in ways that promote positive child development and continued beneficial contact with both biological parents.


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