No-one said being part of a stepfamily would be easy - but the chances are no-one really told you how hard it could be either! Many stepparents struggle with issues from understanding their role in the family, to dealing with their partners ex, to getting on with their stepchildren. We've put together a number of articles which will hopefully give you some help in adapting to stepfamily life. If there's a particular issue that's worrying you why not drop us a line and we'll try and help.
Learn about the development cycle of stepfamilies and work out how far along the path you and your family are.
Couples who've been through all the difficult times and come out the other side share their tips on what works and what doesn't!
A lighthearted look at testing your knowledge of stepfamilies.
An article looking at how you and your partner can better define your role in the family.
Learning to work effectively with an ex partner is inherently part of being a stepfamily. This article looks at the choices stepparents have.
We all need help, from our partners, our friends and our wider family. This article looks at the effect social support has on our wellbeing.
Many of the problems you might face in your stepfamily are ones experienced by many other stepfamilies around the country. Whether it's problems with your stepchildren, communicating with your partner, dealing with an ex or trying to define your role in the family, email us anything that's bothering you and perhaps we can help you find a way of making the problem see more manageable.
By sharing some of your questions and our answers in this way, we hope others might be able to use the advice to help deal with similar problems. If you have a burning question then please feel free to send it to us and we'll do our best to answer it.
Dear Dr Lisa
I've been with my partner for two years. He has two small children from a previous relationship, who live for most of the time with their mother. They come to stay with us at weekends and occasionaly during the week. I'm really lucky as I get on really well with his children who are aged 4 and 2. Occasionally though when they're staying with us they can be naughty and I'm just not sure what to do for the best. I tend to keep quiet and let my partner tell them off but I feel myself getting more and more frustrated sometimes. I guess I need to know that it's OK to discipline them if I feel it's appropriate. What should I do for the best?
Lots of stepparents struggle with this issue so don't feel you're on your own! It's great that you have a good relationship with your stepchildren as that makes things a lot more straightforward when you have to check their behaviour! When a stepfamily is just starting out it's generally best to leave discipline issues to the biological parent, using this time to get to know each other and build trust between you all. However as time moves on and you all become more comfortable with each other it's perfectly reasonable to take more responsibility for disciplining your stepchildren, particularly if you're living together, even for part of the time. Chat things through with your partner and make sure they support you - the last thing you want is for your views to be undermined in any way. As long as both you and your partner deal with the children's behaviour in the same way and consistently apply your 'house' rules, things should be fine! After two years together, I think it's time you started taking a more proactive role in this area. Have confidence in your abilities and ask your partner to support you as much as possible, particularly in the early days.
Good luck! Dr Lisa
Dear Dr Lisa
I'm about to marry a man who has two children, aged seven and 12, and while I get on quite well with them I'm worried about how to handle the relationship when I become their stepmum, particularly as they live with their biological mum half the time. Do you have any tips?
Congratulations, such an exciting time for you both but only natural that you are worried about the changes the wedding will bring. I think one of the first things to consider is that while you might be worried – it’s likely that the children will also been anxious about how the wedding will affect them, so try and make time to talk to them and reassure them and answer any questions they might have. It’s also important to set yourself realistic expectations. Stepfamilies are generally more complicated than biological families, with more relationships to juggle and build. You all need time to get to know one another so don’t expect things to happen quickly. Aim to build trust and respect between you and the children – leave the tricky things like discipline to your partner until you feel more confident and have stronger relationships with the children. One of the most exciting things about being in your position is that you’re embarking on a journey, creating your new family unit. Make time to build your own unique memories and traditions! And finally don’t neglect your relationship with your partner, a strong couple relationship is vital for any family but is at the heart of all stepfamilies. Have a fab wedding and enjoy becoming a confident and happy stepmum!