In my previous blog, I introduced information about stepfamilies, also referred to as blended families, and focused on elements which may influence the experience of building close and supportive relationships in these families.
In a chapter written by Greene, Anderson, Forgatch, DeGarmo and Hetherington (2003), the authors explained that the introduction of a parent’s new relationship with a romantic partner following separation or divorce, is more likely to be successful and healthy when the parent does this with care and sensitivity to others involved. They recommend that the parent keeps the following points in mind when considering the possibility of starting to date.
- The parent comes up with decision-making strategies for dating others
It might be of benefit if the parent considers whether he or she is ready to start dating prior to starting dating, and if so, to also reflect on the selection criteria for their new romantic partner.
- The parent serves as a gatekeeper or regulator of information to children about their own repartnering and that of their ex-spouse
This point refers to the parent’s role in selecting whether, when, and how to share with others information about the romantic relationship. Thus, for instance, the parent would carefully select the information given to children depending on what is age and developmentally appropriate for the child to be aware of.
- The parent acts as manager of developing relationships in repartnered families
The parent would also need to reflect about and explore ways to incorporate the new romantic partner into the children’s existing routine and system. For instance, by discussing the level of the new partner’s involvement in the children’s discipline in order to ensure consistency in the system that the child has already been used to.
Through a sensitivity to these three points, the parent would very likely be facilitating this transition for all parties involved, whether children, ex-spouses, new romantic partner, and themselves.
Rebecca Cassar is a Family Therapist practicing the Systemic Approach. She specializing in offering therapy to families, couples and individuals who are experiencing distress in their relationships.