WE KNOW THAT STEP FAMILIES ARE DIFFERENT THAN FIRST-TIME FAMILIES IN MANY WAYS.
When a step family forms there is often an expectation that all members will bond. But, let’s face it, this can sometimes be a struggle. The biological parent-child bond can often be stronger than the new couple’s bond leaving one spouse feeling like an outsider. Children may struggle with the loss of their first family and loyalty to their other parent when a new stepparent steps in. There may be former spouses that impact the new family in significant ways. And, even with this added complexity, there is often the hope that this new family will provide a second chance to “get it right.”
All these aspects of stepfamily life put pressure on the family system, resulting in any of the following scenarios:
We communicate a lot! (But get nowhere.)
Or, maybe your family talks (or yells) a lot, but things never seem to change. No matter how hard you try, you get stuck in the same negative pattern of communication. It’s like Groundhog’s Day. Let’s slow things down and facilitate a process that leaves family members feeling more understood and less defensive. We’ll peer underneath your usual conflict and shed some light on what’s really causing the problem.
Um…Something doesn’t feel right but it’s scary to talk.
Things aren’t perfect but why upset the apple cart when you’re not sure of the outcome? But, on the other hand, what if talking about it could decrease some tension and bring your family closer together? Our goal is to create a safe environment where families can learn to communicate more openly. Often family members discover new things about each other and behavior that was previously misunderstood begins to make more sense.
Symptom of a larger issue.
Sometimes one family member (many times a child) may be behaving in ways that feel disruptive to everyone else. Often this member is acting out the tension the rest of the family may be busy ignoring. By working with all members, we can impact the family system in a more profound way. We always recommended that children seen for individual therapy are also seen in family sessions to support the long term sustainability of the family’s goals.
The Steps are struggling.
Step relationships can be tricky, particularly in the early stages of creating a new family. Maybe a stepparent moves too quickly into a role of disciplinarian. Or, a stepchild is distant or defiant towards their stepparent out of loyalty to their biological parent. These are common (yet often painful) situations in which families can feel hopelessly stuck. We help stepparents (and their partners) navigate these pitfalls and improve relationships.