Do you know what a stepfamily is?
A stepfamily is also known as a blended family or a remarried family. It happens when people who have children from a former marriage marry. If there are no children, it is simply a remarriage.
Years ago people used to hide the fact that they were a stepfamily. Children were adopted or the fact of the nature of the family was a secret. And then in the 1970s a stepfamily movement took shape and people began to discuss their existence and the problems they faced.
A Host of Adjustments
At the time the divorce rate was higher than it is today. People marrying earlier was one problem. But there were many contributing factors. There is an adjustment to a divorce or the death of a spouse which must be dealt with. Too often people moved quickly into another marriage and brought their children with them. Adjustments weren’t finished and the children had to deal with their own adjustments. They had to adjust to a new family they didn’t want.
My wife and I suffered divorces at the same time and remarried in that period. Together we had custody of our children—in crisis. It was stressful, is one way to state it. And that is a simplistic statement.
Soon we sought understanding and refuge in the stepfamily movement and became national experts in the experience and its adjustment. Now we are here having been married for forty-four years this summer and our children have been on their own for a long time. There are now grandchildren. Survival was not easy.
Families of any kind can be stressful. Careers have to be maintaining and children have needs and grow fitfully. But a stepfamily begins in crisis. Everyone is in crisis and the threat of it tearing itself apart is clear and present. The adjustment period for the adults is between six and eight years in general. And during this period the children are working on their own adjustment.
But there is help and understanding. The adjustment period is long but people need to understand it gets better during the period in fits and starts.
It was clear people needed information and understanding. Many of us wrote books to help others. My wife and I wrote a book which we later revised in another form. It is called Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership. The title is telling. Getting help is important for very many couples. But there is no reason that all the wisdom needs to come from someone else. The adults involved can understand and help construct their own helping and healing system. So, it can become a partnership. Or, of course, the couple may simply find the book sufficient and useful.
We now have an important body of knowledge and don’t have to be alone in a difficult period.
How many stepfamilies do you know? Probably more than you think.