Stepfamilies have gone from being a therapeutic rarity to a staple of family practice. But with this dynamic comes a litany of unique hurdles that stepfamilies must navigate, including a child’s disregard for a step-parent, attachment wounds between parents and kids, conflict among children, and stresses the happy couple never anticipated.
In the following video clip with Networker Editor Rich Simon, Patricia Papernow, an expert in working with stepfamilies, explains the two realities of new stepfamilies: adults are often enthralled and optimistic, while children are undergoing a series of losses.
Patricia Papernow, EdD., has worked as a trainer, consultant, and therapist with stepfamily relationships for more than 30 years. She’s a National Stepfamily Resource Center senior training faculty member and the author of the award-winning books Becoming a Stepfamily and Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships.
As much a therapist might have experience in doing family therapy, the potential to make errors with stepfamilies is significant, Papernow says. Namely, she adds, parent-child relationships need to be nurtured as much as the new couple's relationship. "In stepfamilies," Papernow writes in her recent Networker article, "children of all ages need time alone with their parents and often experience stepparents as interlopers. Successful stepcouples don’t rush children into acceptance, nor do they privilege the couple relationship over parent–child ties. They honor both."
Did you enjoy this article? You might also want to check out Papernow's article "The Remarriage Triangle," in which she explains how to best work with later-life recouplers and their adult children. Or, check out Bill Doherty's "Bad Couples Therapy," in which he shares lessons from one of his most challenging stepfamily cases, and debunks the myth of therapist neutrality.
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Tags: behavior therapy | Dan Siegel | family | family therapy | grief | kids | national stepfamily resource center | parenting issues | parents | psychotherapy | relationships | stepfamilies | stepfamily | therapist