The divorce process is never easy on anyone, even under the best of circumstances. Yet sliding into a new family blueprint when stepparents and new siblings are involved can be especially challenging. Divorce alone is an emotionally taxing experience, so adding new family dynamics to the mix can easily cause anxiety levels to spike for everyone on the home front.
Setting Your Family Up for Success
When it comes to integrating a new spouse and new children into an existing household that has already undergone big changes, successfully making it through the divorce transition is a matter of a balancing act.
It is essential for parents to nurture their relationships with their children, while ensuring they do not neglect their relationship with their spouse in the midst of everything. Investing time and energy into forming new family relationships can be overwhelming at first, but doing so can help you build and maintain a new, healthy stepfamily structure that benefits everyone over the long term.
Preventing Future Conflict and Defusing Current Tension
It is easy to overlook the essential building blocks of creating a post-divorce family structure when the transition is fresh. The following highlights from Psychology Today are suggestions for how to start off on the right foot and avoid sabotaging your stepfamily dynamic. If you are a new stepparent, steer clear of the following:
1. Enforcing too much or not enough discipline – As a new stepparent to your spouse’s child, enforcing too much discipline too soon in your parental role can instill resentment and animosity in the child very early on in your new relationship—the element of trust has not yet been built. The same goes for not enforcing enough discipline. Rules are important, as they set help set boundaries and help children feel safe by creating consistency.
2. Too little structure – Lack of structure can be extremely problematic for adolescents and young children, as children thrive on routine and function best when they are able to anticipate direction. When children in new stepfamilies lack structure, they are more likely to act out, while those with household structure and clear boundaries experience less anxiety and feel more secure in their new living arrangements.
3. Not enough quality time – Quality time is key to nurturing stepfamily relationships, and this includes couple time between spouses. Neglecting quality couple time can be just as detrimental to your family dynamic as failing to make time for your children. Create balance by scheduling date nights and sticking to them, and communicate your plans with your children. Engage in activities as a couple and as a family that help you get to know one another better and give you the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company. The key is to do this on a regular basis—make it routine.
Building a solid foundation for your stepfamily is not something that happens overnight. Like anything else, it requires patience, commitment, and dedication. As you work through your separation and embark on your post-divorce journey as a new family unit, make sure you are looking out for your family’s best interest by ensuring your rights are protected and your questions are answered. Talk with a competent Elmhurst, IL divorce attorney to address your concerns. Call Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC today at 312-605-4041 for a personal consultation.