Becoming a step-parent comes with some major implications for you, your relationship and your new family. It could be that you do not already have children, and have gained an entire family almost overnight. One challenge to creating a cohesive blended family is establishing trust. The children may feel uncertain about their new “family” and resist your efforts to get to know them. Children naturally need a bit of time to adjust to the changes in their families, but are likely to follow the lead of their natural parents, so forming a united front and providing an example of respectful inclusion is vital.

Ask any mum or dad and they’ll tell you that every stage children go through has its own unique challenges, but for step-parents, the difficulties can be especially troublesome since stepparents may not have the support of others, who sometimes view them as somehow less involved than “real” parents. Many step-parents take responsibility for a great deal of the day-to-day care of their step-kids, though, and on top of that, are likely to encounter a few hurdles that natural parents never have to consider.

Further Information for Step-parents

It is important to keep children informed at every stage of the separation process.

Encourage your new partner to tell his or her children what is happening. They don't need every detail, but they do need to know what is going on. They may not wish to be involved in making decisions, but most children will still want to feel they are being listened to. Encourage them to ask questions and give them honest and reassuring answers. If something is not yet decided, reassure them that their parents will have the answers as soon as they can.

Co-parenting following separation, divorce or a dissolution of a civil partnership can be tricky and challenging. Your ability as a step-parent to communicate successfully with the child, meet their needs, for safety, support and love will have a positive effect on the child.

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When parents separate they both remain responsible for the care and financial support of their children. Step-parents can provide a supporting role in this. Most think it is important for the children’s lives to be affected as little as possible by the separation and for them to have a similar standard of living when they are spending time with each parent. The law takes this view too.

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Relationship breakdown can be a very emotional time for children. Whilst children will react differently, depending on their age, personality and the individual situation, it is common for children to go through a whole range of emotions, which can include denial, anger, self-blame, sadness and withdrawal. However, with space, time and support they will work through their feelings and adjust.

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As a Step-parent who is affected by separation, either in your family, or in your own experience, you are all likely to go through the grief (loss) cycle. Because we are unique human beings, it is difficult to tell exactly what we will feel and when but it is reassuring to know it’s all normal and won’t last forever. It is important that you take care of yourself and your wellbeing during this time, as well as be supportive and help where you can with your new partner and their children.

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NFM is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family

If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can also contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.

All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.

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