Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Parent to Parent: Step-Family
Believe it or not, more americans are living in step families then in traditional nuclear families these days. But in tonight's Parent to Parent, Dr. Debbie shows us there are things you can do to help children deal with a new family member.
WSVN--While having a baby takes nine months...
For thousands of people like the Asions and the Porters, family ties are instant.
Luis Asion: "I basically lived a single life and all the sudden I became a step dad over night."
Luis Asion has been a step-parent to 13-year-old Justin and 10-year-old Alexsia Porter for the last eight years.
But the children didn't neccessarily see him as a father figure.
Luis Asion: "Since day one my role has been more of a friend than a step dad."
Luis is lucky the kids saw him as more friend than foe.
Seven News Parenting Expert, Dr. Debbie Glasser, says the first few years of a blended or combined family can be tough.
Luis Asion: "It's important not to expect an instant family, while it would be nice and it would easy, its not necessarily the reality."
That's because both children and parents may still be trying to recover from a death or divorce.
Plus, it's a time when everyone's trying to get to know each other.
Dr. Debbie Glasser: "Give your family members time. Give them space. Keep your expectations flexible and realistic and recognize that this coming together is a process that's going to evolve over many many years."
Experts say it could take as long as five years for family members to feel comfortable.
So step parents, don't feel guilty about not instantly loving your step children.
Dr. Debbie: "Love very often grows. Love isn't really an emotion that can be flipped on with a switch in any situation."
In the meantime, there are things you can do to make a child feel comfortable.
Make sure you set a routine and keep things as consistent as possible.
Keep the lines of communication open.
Don't bad mouth another adult who is important in your step child's life.
And establish your role... But don't be the bad guy. Leave the discipline to the biological parents.
Dr. Debbie: "It doesn't tend to go over well when a new person enters a family and starts setting all kinds of rules and limits and thats not to say that they would ignore if a behavior was out of control those kinds of things."
If your child still has concerns or fears, listen to what they have to say.
And finally, Dr. Debbie, whose part of a combined family herself, says you should continue old traditions and set new ones too.
Luis and his blended family have built a tradition watching heat games together.
Now, they wouldn't have it any other way.
Luis Asion: "I think it is a wonderful experience."
Alexsia Porter: "I think it is better to have an extra parent. I love him and that he's a good step father."
IF YOU HAVE A CONCERN DR. DEBBIE CAN HELP YOU WITH E-MAIL US AT:
DR. DEBBIE GLASSER'S WEBSITE: