We live in stressful times. Many of us are working harder and for longer hours than ever before. It can feel as though there’s always something to worry, about whether it’s financial stress, career worries or the growing sense of paranoia that can come from living in a politically and economically turbulent time. And while virtually all human beings experience anxiety and stress at some point in our lives, it’s how we deal with them that makes all the difference. If we’re not careful we can take our stress and frustrations out on those closest to us, or behave in ways that are impulsive saying things that we may not mean with potentially damaging effects upon the ones we love.
While this is a problem that many families face, it’s an issue that’s compounded for step families and blended families. In fact, step families on average experience 3 to 4 times as much stress as comparable biological families. But just because the deck is stacked against them statistically, that doesn’t mean that they can’t form positive relationships and work towards lifelong bonds.
Any step or blended family can navigate the potential stress, challenges and pitfalls that come with living together. But not all of them can do it on their own. They need a guiding hand to help them overcome practical challenges as well as their own emotional impediments. Like a great sports team, families need a coach to help them to be the best that they come in. That’s where we come in!
At Reid Counseling, we offer a suite of family therapy solutions tailored to the needs of blended and step families.
Everything worth having in life requires regular care and maintenance to help it remain worthwhile, meaningful and beautiful. You can’t expect a fit and healthy body from sitting on the sofa eating cheeseburgers. You need to watch what you eat and work out regularly. If you buy a beautiful boat or a nice car, it’s not going to stay beautiful (or even functional) for long without routine maintenance and repairs.
Happy and harmonious relationships between family members not only need to be earned, they need to be maintained just like anything else. It’s a simple fact of life.
Unfortunately, some may see family coaching (or any kind of therapy) as an admission of failure or a last resort. But nothing could be further from the truth. Therapy simply gives you and your family the tools you need to keep your family relationships well maintained and the knowledge and skills to use them effectively.
When you undergo blended or step family coaching together you’ll gain practical skills that will help you in a number of ways...
All kinds of families benefit when working on the ways in which they communicate with each other. But for blended and step families, communication is doubly important. The familial ties that are made from birth are not present between stepparents and stepchildren so they need to work on creating those bonds through open, honest and respectful communication.
And this takes time, patience and skills.
Through their communications, family members will begin to see one another as allies rather than enemies, as a single unit rather than fractured parts taped haphazardly together.
Your therapist will work collaboratively with you to help you to find better ways of communicating with one another and reacting to what is said. This might include refraining from declarative “you” statements which can easily feel like accusations or attacks and replacing them with “I” statements which afford stepparents and children an insight into what the other is going through.
The better you’re able to communicate together, the more bonded you will become as a family unit. Family members will be able to avoid dissention and avoidance and be able to express themselves comfortably around one another.
Studies show that effective communication plays a key role in stepfamily functioning, and by extension, in children's ability to adjust to remarried family life in a positive way.
The sad truth is that step parents face an uphill battle almost from day one. Children have a tendency to over simplify things and see them in very binary terms of good and bad, right and wrong. And as a new addition to the family, you may be seen as an unwelcome invader or the reason for the break up of what they perceived to be a perfectly happy former household (no matter what issues or problems were being kept from them). Let’s face it, the Wicked Stepmother archetype has been a staple of narrative fiction for centuries and it’s gained traction in our shared consciousness for a reason.
However, while step parents may have to work harder to earn the respect, trust and even love of their partner’s children, it can be done.
Your therapist will give you a set of tasks to complete in between sessions that will help to strengthen the bonds between step and blended families and address any incidents or behaviors which can be disruptive of harmony within the new family unit.
All families (all people in fact) disagree from time to time. Yet, for some reason, we treat disagreement as though it’s something to be frowned upon or at the very least swept under the rug. But as your therapist will tell you, disagreements can make each member of the family a better person.
They can help stepparents to understand a child’s perspective and give them the gift of empathy. They can encourage biological or stepchildren to think in ways that may not have occurred to them before and help them to build on their growing emotional and interpersonal intelligence.
Disagreements can actually be beneficial to the blended or step family dynamic… Arguments, on the other hand cannot.
All too often we use the terms “disagreement” and “argument” interchangeably. But the two are extremely different. Disagreements snowball into arguments when we let our emotions dictate our behavior and find ourselves saying things that we don’t mean which causes other family members to feel upset, offended or attacked which can only escalate the situation.
Family therapy, much like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) will allow you to catch the kinds of negative thoughts that can damage your relationships in your head before they influence what comes out of your mouth. This will help each family member to think more carefully about what they say to ensure that disagreements are treated like the learning experience that they are, rather than arguments
This allows families to work on their issues in a mutually respectful way without the drama of raised voices and slammed doors.
All of us, no matter how skilled and experienced we get in our personal and professional lives can suffer from impostor syndrome, and stepparents in particular are afflicted by this. What’s more, when we feel as though we lack confidence in our roles as parents or step parents this can have a knock-on effect on how we behave around other family members.
With family coaching, however, you will gain the tools, knowledge and experience to help you to work on your issues in a constructive way. The more arguments you’re able to defuse before they happen and the more happy resolutions you’ll help family members to work towards, the more you’ll grow in confidence.
You’ll be happier with the kind of person, parent and stepparent you are and shut the door on impostor syndrome for good!
Very often, the more we try and apply rigid order to our lives, the more stressed out and frustrated we’ll be, especially when kids are involved. Although family coaching will help you to add structures, tools and coping mechanisms to family life, it will also help you to embrace and enjoy the chaotic parts of family life that are out of your control.
It’ll help you to come to terms with the fact that not everything can be structured and that trying too hard can blind you to the beauty that’s all around you. With help you’ll be able to embrace and enjoy the chaos and thus regain your sense of fun.
And who doesn’t want to be seen as fun by their children and stepchildren?
Dan Johnson is a certified LPC-S (Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor) and he runs REID Counseling Group, based out of Katy, Texas. As well as helping couples with their relationships, he also provides individual therapies, family and step family therapies and men’s health services.
As well as being a licensed counselor, Dan is also a practicing Christian and offers a biblically based counseling service to help families maintain a healthy relationship with God even as they work on their relationships with one another. Through the examples of God’s teachings, families can draw upon reserves of compassion, strength, kindness and forgiveness through their renewed faith.
Of course, if you are of a different faith or even no faith at all, Dan can still provide practical and psychologically backed coaching to help your family unit become more harmonious and living through better communication and listening.
If you’re ready to get your family relationships back on track, perhaps it’s time to get in touch with Reid Counseling. Get in touch with us today at (281) 968-9119.
It might just be the most important phone call you ever make!