Managing Stepfamilies at Christmas can be challenging: Choosing Realistic Expectations

Step families and remarrying couples enjoy the many benefits of married life together, but they also face many challenges of raising children and balancing family ex-partner visits as well as communicating effectively and resolving the issues involved with running a household, parenting and managing finances.

Christmas can be a joyous time for many but it can also exacerbate these challenges for step families and remarrying couples that need to be managed carefully. It may be useful to work through the following myths with your couple or your partner. Read through these common myths, noticing if any of them resonate.

Myth 1: Because we love each other, the other family members will also love each other.
Reality: Love and/or good relationships may or may not happen between stepfamily members. It will likely take time for emotional bonds to develop; some will bond quickly, others slowly, and it is possible that some individuals may never bond.

Myth 2: Our children will feel as happy about this new family as we do.
Reality: The truth is children will at best be confused about the new marriage and at worst, they’ll resent it. Remarriage is a gain for adults and a challenge for children. Only after much time, when family stability is obtained, does the remarriage also become a gain for children. Be patient with them.

Myth 3: The stepparent(s) will quickly bond with the children and act like another parent.
Reality: Sometimes stepparents want so badly to be accepted they try to manage the children as a parent would. They may also try to show affection like a biological parent would. Children often need some space initially to build a relationship with the stepparent. It is often a good idea to let the child set the pace and follow their lead.

Myth 4: We’ll do marriage better this time around.
Reality: Those who have experienced a breakup or divorce often have learned tough lessons from the past.
While a new marriage involves different people and different dynamics, it is not uncommon for individuals to slip into the same old patterns and routines (e.g., being avoidant during conflict). Be mindful not to repeat mistakes of the past.

Myth 5: We will be able to easily form a new family.
Reality: In most cases, children didn’t ask for this new family, they need time to develop a history and sense of family. Don’t push to create relationships. It is often better to have minimal expectations of how relationships will develop rather than grand expectations which may fail to materialize.

Couple Discussion:
1. Which of these myths have you been tempted to believe?
2. How could having these unrealistic expectations set you up for frustration and disappointment?
3. How are you going to balance/prioritize the challenges of a stepfamily while also nourishing your couple relationship?

What to learn more? Consider undertaking the PREPARE/ENRICH assessment with a trained facilitator to work through these issues and to discuss appropriate strategies for your family.

The Parenting Version of PREPARE/ENRICH is designed to guide couples through the emotions of parenting by empowering them with insight into their parenting style, family dynamics, and couple relationship. The Parenting Version is best used with any committed couple whose primary concerns are children and parenting issues. The parenting version is customised to your unique family type.

Getting Started:

For Parents:

  • To get started with the Parenting Version of PREPARE/ENRICH, you will need to locate a qualified facilitator of relationship and parental education. PREPARE/ENRICH Certified facilitators can be located in your area by contacting PREPARE/ENRICH or by using the search facility on the website: For Couples

For Facilitators:

  • To get started with the Parenting Version of PREPARE/ENRICH, you will need to become PREPARE/ENRICH Certified by attending a Workshop.
  • Once trained, or if you are already a facilitator Contact Us to activate the Parenting Version in your facilitator account.
  • The cost to activate the Parenting Version is $40

The PREPARE/ENRICH Parenting Version is Now Available: Register here >

PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

For more information on the Parenting Version or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich

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