There is no denying that being a “step” can be hard. Learning to unconditionally accept another person’s child like your own can seem like an impossible task. Making a commitment to your spouse is the easy part. Making a commitment to becoming the best step-parent you can be is when it gets hard. Co-parents who seek counseling in Orlando to talk about issues after divorce, struggle with many different issues, but they share one thing in common. They all agree that when step-parents enter the mix, life can get a whole lot messier.
Blended families are far more normal now than they ever were, but The Brady Bunch image is far from reality. The Brady Bunch step-parent’s never showed favoritism to their own children over the others. They also never spoke negatively about their spouse’s biological children. They also showed a great deal of respect for the individual relationships that each parent still needed to have with their biological children.
Step-parents who are fraught with control issues, jealousy, resentment or contempt for their spouse’s biological children can wreak havoc on a blended family household. Furthermore, the traumatic emotional impact this will have on their step-children’s sense of self-worth, acceptance in the family, and self-confidence is tremendously under estimated. Getting the right professional support through individual counseling in Orlando for blended family issues, or seeking therapy for step-parents, can change this negative dynamic quickly.
Maintaining healthy boundaries as a step-parent is key. Your spouse may ask for your advice at times, but they do not need your criticism, negative impressions of their children, or subjective feedback. If you can not speak kindly or offer constructive, objective feedback, then back out and encourage them to talk to their co-parent instead.
A step-parent should do everything in their power to encourage a healthy co-parenting relationship between their spouse and the other co-parent. When a step-parent feels jealous, or like they need to gain control, then they may not allow this relationship to thrive. They also show a lack of trust in their spouse. When a step-parent undermines their spouse’s co-parenting relationship in ways such as monitoring or making rule for communication, criticizing or belittling their spouse’s co-parent, or refusing to be a positive influence in that dynamic, they become a huge detriment to their step-children’s success.
When a step-parent moves in, the family hierarchy that was established after a divorce changes dramatically. Even more so if they bring more children into the home. A child who loses their place in the family structure can begin to feel unwelcome or unwanted. If a step-parent perpetuates this by favoring their own children, or consuming the entire home, their spouse’s children will soon wish they could avoid going to that home altogether.
Any step-parent who makes a choice to criticize, character assassinate, or breed negativity about their spouse’s children is a bully. When a step-parent behaves in this way, they may think they are doing good by sharing their opinions, but they are simply trying to undermine, control, and be malicious. When children overhear or cue in to this behavior, it is even worse. They not only determine that their own parent will not defend them, but that the step-parent, and their own, can not be trusted. Individuals seeking counseling in Orlando and whose parents were divorced and later remarried, often relate far too many past events damaging their self-esteem to interactions with step-parents.
This should be a no-brainer, but this boundary gets blurred far too often. The dynamic between biological child and parent is sacred. When a step-parent butts into discipline or exercises control over their step-child, two things begin to happen. The first is that their step-children lose respect for their biological parent for being weak and allowing this take over to occur. The second is they lose respect, trust, affection, and loyalty to their step and their biological parent. They will begin to shut down when in the home, avoid conversations, and feel devalued.
No one claims that it is easy to be a blended family. There are many well written books, but none that are individualized for every situation. Being a great step-parent requires a large amount of self-awareness. This self-awareness doesn’t come natural to everyone and is one reason that people start counseling in Orlando. They want to discover the underlying reasons they are behaving in certain ways or experiencing discontentment in their lives.
Children who have experienced divorce deal with trauma that is often overlooked. The additional impact they feel when their parents remarry, or when they are forced to become new members in a blended family, is greatly minimized. Adults tend to believe that the adjustment is as easy for the children as it is for them. They fail to realize or acknowledge the cognitive disparity between adults and children. The faulty beliefs that children are forming about themselves during these emotional years are not often realized until they reach adulthood and have issues in their own relationships.
If you are a step-parent or a spouse in a blended family, it isn’t too late for you to get back on track. You may not even be aware about how things got off balance. Starting counseling in Orlando and talking to a counselor at Orlando Thrive Therapy will help you find your place. Call 407-592-8997 to speak to a co-parenting professional counselor today.
Heather Oller is a licensed Orlando therapist at Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching & Counseling who specializes in counseling Orlando couples, individuals, and families who are seeking changes in their lives. She has been a mental health professional for over 17 years and is a practicing Orlando counselor that specializes in conflict resolution for couples. You can contact her for an appointment or call 407-592-8997 for more information.