Parenting in stepfamilies

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The most difficult aspect of stepfamily life is parenting. Forming a stepfamily with young children may be easier than forming one with adolescent children due to the differing developmental stages.

Adolescents, however, would rather separate from the family as they form their own identities.

Recent research suggests that younger adolescents (age 10-14) may have the most difficult time adjusting to a stepfamily. Older adolescents (age 15 and older) need less parenting and may have less investment in stepfamily life, while younger children (under age 10) are usually more accepting of a new adult in the family, particularly when the adult is a positive influence. Young adolescents, who are forming their own identities tend to be a bit more difficult to deal with.

Step-parents should at first establish a relationship with the children that is more akin to a friend or "camp counselor," rather than a disciplinarian. Couples can also agree that the custodial parent remain primarily responsible for control and discipline of the children until the stepparent and children develop a solid bond.

Until stepparents can take on more parenting responsibilities, they can simply monitor the children's behavior and activities and keep their spouses informed.

Families might want to develop a list of household rules. These may include, for example, "We agree to respect each family member" or "Every family member agrees to clean up after him or herself."

Read more...Making Stepfamilies Work