- Why This Time It Can Work
Help for Stepfamilies
Derek Randel & Gail Randel, M.D.
death do us part, or unless we decide to call
it quits! Welcome to the new disposable marriages.
The sad reality is that most adults today will
have more marriages than children.
Consider the story of a lovely couple, Ron and
Rachel, who married when they were 25 years
old. As they approached their 35th birthdays
they had two children, Sue, age seven, and Sam,
age four. Unfortunately, they would not be together
to see Sue turn eight because Rachel filed for
Before long, Rachel found her true love, again.
His name was David and he found his soul mate
for the third time. Rachel had custody of her
two children and David shared custody of his
two children with his second wife.
What are the odds that David and Rachel's marriage
will last? Statistics show that 50% of first
marriages end in divorce and 66% of second marriages
where children are involved split up. The odds
are not in their favor.
David and Rachel faced many complex issues.
Here is a sampling:
annoyances continued to escalate. Is there anything
David and Rachel can do to avoid another visit
to the lawyer's office?
The answer is yes - by using the teaching, and
coaching methods of the Step Family Foundation,
Rachel and David have an excellent chance of
having a successful marriage. The Step Family
Foundation, established 30 years ago, has an
84% success rate at keeping couples together.
area the Step Family Foundation helps spouses
deal with is unrealistic expectations. For example,
Rachel wants to be one big happy family like
her first marriage was at first. She expects
David to replace Ron as the children's father.
She also wants her children to treat David as
if he were their father. Meanwhile, David just
are some of the myths that lead to a 66% divorce
rate for second marriages with children. Rachel's
new family will never be the biological family
she had in her first marriage. Step families
have their own unique dynamics and behaviors.
Understanding these dynamics is critical for
a successful marriage. Let's face it; David
will never be the father of Rachel's children.
He can be their stepfather - a loved one, or
a mentor - but not their father. There is no
replacing the biological parent and David and
Rachel would be much better off showing respect
towards the children's father.
Here are a few suggestions for dealing with
annoyances that plague many stepfamilies:
Whenever possible Rachel should discipline her
children, not David. If David does handle any
of the discipline, it should be discussed beforehand
with Rachel. This way there will not be any
problem with David exceeding his authority or
being too harsh. A united front will give the
children a sense of security. And the next time
David hears, "You're not my father"
- the best response would be, "Thank you
These are contributions to the family. The two
parents must be on the same page with who does
what chores, and what the consequences will
be if the chores are not done. When David's
children visit they must also be assigned chores.
After all, they also live in this house and
just because it is on a part time basis does
not mean everyone should wait on them or attend
to all of their needs. All of the children need
predictability, order, and a sense of security.
Being able to set your boundaries is a life
skill. Teaching your children how to set boundaries
will benefit them in all areas of their life.
Begin by closing your bedroom door, and clearly
communicate to your children that nobody enters
without permission. This must go both ways;
knock before you walk into their bedrooms.
As mentioned above, predictability and order
are important when children come to visit. Visitation
must be ritualized for everyone's benefit. The
children need to know where to put their belongings,
where they can sit, where they will sleep. Children
need to know what is expected of them, and they
need to know the weekend's schedule.
There are ex-spouses but never ex-parents. The
need to get along and co-parent is paramount.
The divorced couple does not need to discuss
their personal lives but they do need to discuss
their children. On the other hand, neither spouse
should jump up and react immediately whenever
the ex calls.
By communicating beforehand and agreeing on
everyone's roles, chores, and discipline issues,
there is no reason that David and Rachel cannot
have a successful marriage.
To learn much more about setting boundaries,
handling chores, discipline, or any parenting
issues please contact us at the number below.
Derek Randel is a coach for the Step Family
Foundation and has a program called Parent Smart
From The Heart. For consultations or general
questions he can be reached at 866-89-SMART,
or visit his web site: www.randelconsulting.com
Derek also is the Author of The
and Bittersweet Moments.