Parenting with your partner can be tricky enough as it is. However, when a couple separates, parenting their children together becomes more complicated. Introduce new step-parents and/or step-children and the views of ex-partners – and it can all become highly stressful.
Sometimes separated families come to us having gone through the Family Court of Australia and may have Orders which dictate how they interact with each other and the children involved. Other times they have parenting plans which have not been formalised. Regardless, parents separate for a reason and often find it difficult to communicate and parent with their ex.
Blending families is also a tricky business for adults. Many parents tell us they wished they had sought professional advice before they re-partnered or had more children, and wished they’d done things differently.
And spare a thought for new step-parents who find themselves in the middle of historical hurts and complex family arrangements. Some step-parents have to learn parenting skills very quickly, and may not have fully understood what exactly they were up for.
Most parents worry about their children and the impact of separation and re-partnering. They should. All children experience profound loss and grief at losing their intact family. Out of everyone, children have the least say and are the most impacted.
If you are in a separated family, step-family or blended family, you may be going through this:
- Despite going through a court or legal process you do not believe you have the access to your child/children as you should and want help with this. Or one of your children wants to spend more time with one parent.
- You fight with your ex partner over discipline and other parenting decisions.
- You do not communicate well with your ex partner and it is affecting your children.
- Your children complain about going to the other parent’s house and you don’t know how to manage it.
- You hear from your children negative things your ex partner has said about you.
- You are concerned about your child/children’s relationship with their other parent and new step-parent but don’t know what to do about it
- You don’t like the way a step-parent in another home parents your child/children.
- You believe your ex is turning your child/teenager against you.
- You have recently become a step-parent and are struggling with your relationship with your step-children.
- You are a step-parent and do not feel supported by your partner when it comes to their children/teenagers?
- You are a step-parent and think your partner is not parenting their children/teenager effectively.
- Your children/teenagers do not like your new partner and you are worried about losing them or they are “acting out” in the home.
- You would like to introduce your children/teenagers to your new partner and not sure how to do it.
Family counselling can help your family in the following ways:
- Family counselling can give you some direct help with what to expect from children/adolescents when you separate including how to introduce new partners.
- Family counselling can help step-parents with parenting their step-children, including discipline, how to form a connection with the child/teenager and child development.
- The Family Therapist will help all parties understand common challenges children/teenagers face post separation and how to navigate through these.
- Family counselling will help you with your child/teenager if they have said they would prefer to live with the other parent.
- The Family Therapist will help ex partners to set up rules around discipline and other parenting aspects so that each home mirrors the others as much as possible.
- Family counselling will help to repair relationships between children/teenagers and all parents.
- Family counselling will help you learn communication skills so you are able to communicate with your ex partner effectively.
- The Family Therapist will help you set up ground rules around communication between ex’s, children and teenagers.
- The Family Therapist will advocate for your children/teenagers so that they are able to communicate their feelings towards you about the new family.
- The Family Therapist will support step-parents in their new role and provide a space where they can be heard by their partner and others.
- Family Counselling can provide a safe space for all parents (including step-parents) to come together to discuss concerns.
In post separated family work, the Family Therapist will be working to educate, set up appropriate boundaries, set ground rules, teach new communication skills and support you in what can be a very difficult transition phase for everyone. At the end of the day, if all parties don’t pull together, it is the children who suffer.
Talk to a Family Therapist who understands the complexities of being in a new family setup – and who can directly help you all through this change.