The blended family (Week 2)

April 16, 2020

Step-parenting can no doubt be challenging and at times difficult. Instead of stepfamilies blending, they sometimes collide. The reason being, many have entered the role as a step-parent and did not know what to expect. To handle a step-parenting situation with the utmost efficiency, both the biological parent and the step-parent should begin with an open and candid discussion about the fears and expectations regarding the relationship with the children. Each should know what the other expects concerning the step-parent’s involvement in guiding, supervising and disciplining the children. Once you understand what each other’s expectations are, you have a place to start shaping what the step-parent role will be. How you ultimately define the step-parent role will, of course, be up to you. The following are Dr. Phil’s recommendations based on what he has seen work, what he has seen fail and how best to set up and define the step-parent role. Dr. Phil sets forth 7 tips to give hope for blended families. The conclusion of Dr. Phil’s advice will be featured in next week’s article.

#1. Unless a step-parent has been added to the family when the children are very young, it will most likely be very difficult for you to discipline your spouse’s children. Every situation is different, but in most situations, disciplining your non-biological children is fraught with danger, since it’s likely to create resentment on the part of your spouse. It’s, however, extremely important that the step-parent be an active supporter of the biological parent’s disciplinary efforts. Both biological parents and step-parents should discuss the rules of the house and negotiate an agreement for what standards the children will be held to.

#2. The step-parent, although not actively initiating direct discipline, should certainly work to maintain the normal boundaries that exist between an adult and a child. Although it may be the biological parent who delivers an initial consequence for misbehavior, it’s important that the step-parent be active in support of that decision, and care should be taken that proper respect and acknowledgment of the step-parent be given.

#3. In relating to all the children, the step-parent should seek to define his or her relationship as that of an ally and supporter. The step-parent can play an important balancing role in terms of modeling and information- giving about life from the male or female point of view. The role of ally and supporter is in no way to be construed as an attempt to replace the biological parent.

For additional reading see Dr. Phil’s Book titled: “Family First: Your Step by Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family.”


1 Dr. Phil, What Role Should Step-parent Play?, Nov. 2015

Next Week: Continuation

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