Grand Canyon University
These tensions highlight the stepfamily’s need to develop “middle ground,” where family members are able to invest in new areas of mutual experience and shared values as a reconstituted family.
A therapeutic challenge in stepfamily work is clarifying boundaries within the remarried family. Tensions emerge as a remarried couple navigates the co-parenting demands of former spouses and the expectation of biological children who may feel dethroned from the privileged attention afforded in a single parent household. Caught between past family ties and the new commitments, the remarried couple is both highly vulnerable and highly significant to the stepfamily’s development. The couple’s bond is the glue.
Children may mourn the distance of a previous custodial parent, the loss of a previous extended family, and the death of hope that one day reconciliation and reunion would occur (Riches & Dawson, 2001). Grief work compliments the therapist’s support of the developing stepfamily identity. Grieving the past and promoting awareness of each individual’s loss provides a basis for building coherence between a family’s past and future.
When the joining families include differences in life cycle stages (e.g., adolescent extrusion; Crosby-Burnett, Lewis, Sullivan, Poldosky, Mantella de Sousa, & Mitriani, 2005) or discrepancies in parental experience (Visher &Visher, 1988), the therapist must work with the remarried couple and stepfamily to accept varying developmental demands and the needs that conflict. Clinical treatment of stepfamilies warrants an awareness of these challenges and an approach to the therapeutic process which promote their resolution. We know that this type of relationship is