Are You Struggling With Your New Step-parent Role?step-parenting-counseling-julie-minoff

  • Have you fallen in love with someone wonderful, but feel unsure about how to enter a life with his or her children?
  • Are you thrilled to help raise your step-children, but you find that the kids are resistant to your presence in their lives?
  • Have you already found yourself involved in child-related interactions or even conflicts with your partner’s ex?
  • If you have children of your own, are you struggling to figure out the best way to bring your two families together?
  • Are you having difficulty figuring out what your role in your partner’s
  • child(ren)’s live should be?
  • Do you wish you could find away to create harmony and trust in your new family system and/or embrace your role as a step-parent?

Step-parenting can be frustrating, confusing and even isolating. And, it’s not uncommon to experience uncertainty about your role in your step-kid’s lives. Perhaps you want to be involved, but the kids don’t seem to respect or even like you. You may be trying to be their friend, but that approach keeps backfiring. Or, maybe you aren’t sure if you can handle the pressure of taking care of your partner’s kids. You might have children of your own, and struggle with your partner to come up with a parenting style that fits everyone’s needs. Maybe your kids fight with your step-kids, and you aren’t sure how to intervene without causing even more conflict.

Often, the stresses that come with blending families can drive a wedge between couples. You might feel like you have to compete with your step-kids and your partner’s ex for attention, care and respect. Perhaps you frequently find yourself wanting to criticize your partner’s ex, but bite your tongue and hold it all in so that you don’t hurt your step-child. You may feel like there is no time for you, but you also feel guilty or ashamed of those emotions. Maybe you feel ostracized and isolated, as though nothing you do is quite right. Perhaps your home is suddenly full of more tension, resistance and chaos than you ever expected.

Many Step-Parents Struggle to Adjust to Their New Roles

Regardless of whether you have children of your own, want children or feel resistant to the idea of children, when you were fantasizing about falling in love and building a life with someone, you probably didn’t imagine that person’s children. Adjusting to the role of a step-parent comes with a wide range of challenges. Blended families are becoming increasingly common – in fact, 65 percent of remarriages involve children from previous unions. Merging families can lead to financial concerns, relationship issues and a great deal of questioning and self-doubt. Very often, taking on the role of a step-parent means navigating the space between parent and friend without overstepping boundaries. And, it can be very difficult to know exactly where those boundaries are. That said, “step-parent” has its own unique role, e and what role works best varies by situation. The blessing and the burden is that you have to design your role. I can help with that.

Thankfully, not matter what unique or common challenges you are encountering – whether they be with parenting styles, exes, the kids not getting along or feeling uncertain in your new role – there is hope for building peace. With help and support, you can find balance within yourself, connection in your relationship and greater harmony in your new, larger family.

Step-Parent Support Can Help You Navigate Your New Role 

No matter how difficult or exhausting things may seem right now, step-parent support can help you find ways to take care of yourself, your relationship and your new family. Therapy sessions are a safe space for you to vent all of the concerns and frustrations you may have been holding in. I am compassionate and non-judgmental, and I will offer you guidance and a fresh perspective as you discover the best way to fulfill your new role.

In sessions, I can help you address the conscious and unconscious ways in which you are reacting to conflicts in your new blended family. Even though it may be difficult to identify or even fully understand, your interactions with your step-children and your partner are probably triggering some deeply buried issues. For example, if you did not feel like your own parents made you a priority, the feeling that you are competing with your step-children for attention may be alarmingly familiar. If these feelings have made you act out or withdraw, you may be reacting with your unconscious mind – or, what I call “letting the monkey drive.” But through step-parent support, you build a bridge between the unconscious and the conscious mind and take greater control over your responses to difficult situations.

Each step-parent and family is unique, so I will work with you to develop practical tools that you can use in your home. For example, we can discuss why it is important to avoid criticizing your step-children’s biological parents in front of them, even if you are responding to their own complaints. I will help you let go of self-blame or disproportionate feelings of responsibility for every difficulty that your step-children encounter. The ages of the children, custody arrangement of the parents and level of involvement of your partner’s ex will all need to be taken into account in designing the step-parent role that is right for you. It is okay to find a balance between being emotionally available and taking a step back when your own well-being demands it.

We can also discuss the conflicts you may be having with your partner. Strengthening your romantic relationship is key to the overall well-being of the entire blended family. I can help you find ways to set healthy boundaries, agree on house rules and set aside time for intimacy and communication. What sort of parenting decisions do make sense for you to be involved in? Housekeeping rules? Curferws? There are differences, and I can help you figure out where you should step in and where you should take a backseat. In some may not be the best route to take.

Step-parent support is incredibly important, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed and confused. With help, you can begin to approach your new responsibilities with a clearer perspective. It is possible to make your marriage more stable and fulfilling while also meeting your own physical, emotional and mental needs. A healthy blended family can become a large support network for your step-children, as well as a nurturing, rewarding place for you and your partner.

iStock_000012591203_SmallYou may feel that you can benefit from step-parent support, but still have questions or concerns…

I don’t know why I have to go to therapy and do the work. It’s not my child.

Although your partner’s children are not yours, I invite you to consider what kinds of physical, emotional and mental strain you may be under right now. If you are looking at this page, it is likely that you are hurting in some way. You deserve a safe space that is just for you. I will listen to you without judgment and help you find a way to navigate this new and often confusing role. My office is safe place for a wide range of feelings from “I don’t like this child” to “I want to save this child” to “I don’t want to deal with this child” to “I love this child, I wish my partner’s ex would take a long walk off a short pier.”…. and of course all the less extreme emotions and thoughts are welcome in my office too!

I’m concerned about what my partner might think and feel if I seek step-parent support.

You may worry that your partner will be hurt or feel judged by your decision to seek support for yourself. However, you partner – especially if he or she is not or has never been a step-parent ­– likely doesn’t completely understand exactly what you are going through. Through therapy, you can develop communication tools that will help your partner understand. I am also happy to meet with your partner or even your step-children if that will help the family progress together.

I can’t afford therapy, especially with the financial demands of step-children.

I invite you to consider how many resources you and your family have dedicated to other things. But, have you invested in yourself? Therapy can be a place for you to vent, seek support or just process your own emotions. In addition, therapy will also ultimately help you build a better relationship with your step-children. Therapy is an investment in making your whole family a nurturing place for everyone.

If you are ready to develop new ways to navigate your role as a step-parent, I invite you to call me at (650) 269-1688 for a free 15-minute phone consultation to ask any questions you have about step-parent support and my practice.