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BUILDING STEPFAMILY COHESIVENESS FROM SCRATCH

Young or new stepfamilies are not usually easy, warm or fun places to be. The kids are reeling from the losses in their lives and trying to adjust. So are the adults. Let’s face it – nobody plans on divorce and remarriage!

New stepfamilies are anything but cohesive. There’s little familiarity or trust between the insiders and outsiders – the biologically tied and the “strangers” who are joining in. Everyone feels pretty protective and defensive of what’s theirs and what’s not.

How do you bridge the gap and break down the barriers? How can adults reach out to stepchildren and still maintain the close ties with their biological children? How do you bring people together in stepfamilies?

It’s easier than you think.

Here are some ideas I’ve learned in my own family or from people I’ve seen in my office:

Lighten up – Develop a family sense of humor and LAUGH together. In my family we had one son who had the gift of being able to completely crack us all up with his sense of humor. We’d sit at the dining room table laughing hysterically at one of his one liners. His jokes became our jokes.

Provide ways for the kids to play together – Provide games, musical instruments and space for them to put on talent shows, singing and dance performances, skits, and puppet shows, etc These special memories will last forever. One rainy Sunday, our children spent hours making over my 14 year old son into a very feminine young lady! We got pictures of that one.

Establish and then be consistent with family traditions – Find special ways to celebrate birthdays and holidays. Involve the family in sports activities …or anything you can think of that your family would enjoy in particular. Remember the favorite events and activities so you can repeat them.

Provide food that everyone loves. Nothing does it better than feeding a hungry family.It can range from picking up pizza or spending the whole day in the kitchen cooking.

It’s up to you, the adult stepcouple, to reach out and provide the glue that brings your new stepfamilies together – slowly but surely. Try to include all the children – even the shy and reluctant ones. Over time, you’ll look back and remember the sweet times when good things happened.

What’s the glue in your family?

Susan Wisdom LPC
February 2008

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