No more wicked stepmothers

STEPFAMILIES are considered to be the fastest growing family unit. But step-parenting can be hazardous.

Interrelate, at 5 Market Street in Lismore is offering a new course: Making Stepfamilies Work, starting Wednesday, August 1.

Step-parents make up 20% of the five million families living in Australia today. While stepfamilies have complex relationships and structures, they can also provide a healthy model for children, on how to work on their relationships and resolve conflict.

Taking the plunge into a stepfamily might be exciting at first; however there are no 'rule books' and the reality can often bring stepfamilies to an abrupt halt.

Managing two mums, two dads, step siblings, four grandparents, multiple homes and different religions and household rules can be overwhelming for children and magnify the loss of their 'original family'.

Add that together with ongoing conflict between the adults, and the odds for success might seem far off.

Interrelate's top tips for negotiating the stepfamily journey include:

Don't expect instant success - all relationships require work, stepfamily relationships are no different and in fact can be much more complex;

Be open and communicate with your partner - discuss with your partner your new household rules and disciplines and be prepared to adjust these to meet the needs of your family;

Avoid the 'one big happy family' syndrome - make time for all the different roles you play, spend time individually with your children, your partner, your stepchildren and the entire family;

You are in a stepfamily not a biological family - children may have loyalties to their biological parents, allow for relationships to develop but be prepared that a close bond with your stepchildren may not develop;

Seek support - get professional help, join a support group, educate yourself (books, the internet, etc), attend stepfamily support programs.

There are six weekly sessions being held from 6-9pm. Phone 6623 2750.

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