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- There is no shift in custody at the time of remarriage.
- Both families approve of the remarriage.
- Children have contact with both their biological parents.
- Acrimony over the children is not present between ex-spouses.
- The stepdaughter is not adolescent. Daughters ages 9 to 15 have more problems adjusting to stepparents.
- Time is taken to adjust (usually between two to five years).
- The problems of stepmoms are recognized and validated.
- Mutual courtesy between stepmom and children, rather than mutual love, is the immediate goal.
- The biological parent handles serious discipline issues well.
Of course, many of you don't have these things going for you. But don't despair! There is still much that can be done to ease the blending of families. If you are a stepmom undergoing family adjustment, consider these strategies:
Continue to resolve all divorce issues. When issues of loss surface (and they will), freely discuss them. Loss is an ongoing process due to celebrations and life transitions such as graduations, weddings, births and so on that will require you to interface with the biological parents.
Give up the idea that you won't have difficulty. The biblical promise is that you will overcome problems, not avoid them.
Talk about feelings--guilt, anger, loyalties and so on. Validating feelings and not being afraid to allow others to express them is very important and goes a long way in helping family members feel supported.
Find a way to work with the biological mom. This will require prayer and humility--and may be a test of your Christlike character.
Be aware that problems with ex-spouses usually involve money, jealousy, competition and unresolved divorce issues. Clarify and resolve these issues.
Negotiate your relationship with the children. Successful discipline occurs after stepfamily integration. When possible, support the biological parent.
Understand that you married your husband because you love him. You may not love the children at first--and may have to work on this. Ask God to put a love in your heart for them.
You have more to cope with than intact families. You should understand this before you remarry. In most cases, children are forever tied to the biological couple.
Keep your relationship with God strong, intimate and growing. You need His strength, love and wisdom.
Pray for the newly constituted family and the biological mother.
Stepmoms often ask in therapy why no one appreciates the load they bear. The answer has to do with the preoccupation of other family members with their own adjustments. In addition, women typically take responsibility for family relationships. Consequently, others expect them to carry the burden and be strong.
You may not always feel strong, and that's OK. Know that you aren't alone in your time of adjustment. God sees your difficulty and has the wisdom necessary to handle family matters.
Approach your loving heavenly Father. Ask for discernment and godly character in order to respond to each situation in a Christlike manner. He will give you what you need to be victorious.
Linda Mintle is a national expert on the psychology of food, weight and body image and relationships.
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