From Dr. Jane's Notebook
With the high rate of divorce and remarriage over the past 30 years, a scarce few of us
are not members of step-families. Even those who deny this reality at first, can usually
think of at least one member of the family who is now related by remarriage. We have
step-siblings, step-parents, step-children and step-cousins to name just a few. The
problems of step-family living have been the topic of much research. Coping with those
problems presents new challenges on a continuous basis.
- Co-parenting is forever. The reality is that once you are a parent, divorce is never
complete. Former spouses remain plagued by the necessity of sharing custody, finances,
responsibilities, and life cycle events. Their comfort with sharing children varies,
depending on cooperativeness, competitiveness, and issues of personal lifestyle from
moment to moment.
- Children need both of their parents. Even when one parent bows out of the situation, the
problems of divorce are not resolved. Children harbor the fear that they were the cause of
their parents' divorce and feel rejected as individuals. Like the adopted child who
searches for their biological parents, children want to know both of their parents and
feel loved by both.
- Torn loyalties are a way of life. Children try to please both parents and both sides of
their families, almost eternally. They are caught in the awkward bind of not wanting to
side with or against either parent. Often, even their most carefully selected words are
used against them, if they share any information. This is hazardous to their health, both
physical and mental.
- Step-families may not resemble your family of origin. We usually refer back to the
families that we grew up in, for guidance with current family dilemmas. However,
step-families present a whole new ballgame. We may not have family models to call upon,
and may need to invent new ways of solving problems, or need to consult a professional for
guidance. Books and courses in step-family living are also available to address this exact
- Flexibility and communication are your best assets. Step-family living requires new
rules and a cooperative spirit. Any amount of amicability should be appreciated and
encouraged. Remember: your task is to act in the best interest of your child. They love
you both, and need both of their parents. Losing a parent is like the amputation of a
limb. No matter how well children compensate, they remain somewhat disabled. Our job is to
lessen that disability by sharing generously in their lives.
Who can forget the immortal words of Kahlil Gibran in his work, The Prophet...
"Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life's
longing for itself. They come through you, but not from you, and though they are with you
yet they belong not to you". When our children are grown, they will know and
appreciate those who have truly understood their needs and sensitivities.
ęCopyright, 1992, 1995, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated October 17, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon,