Positively Paula

Top Secrets of Stepfathers

Friday, June 01, 2012
Looking back over my last nine years in a blended family, I think I could have done a better job, especially when it comes to understanding my husband and his point of view on parenting and stepparenting. Sometimes I wondered why is he doing what he is doing? I just didn't get it so many times. Even after asking him! Do you want to know how a stepdad thinks, feels, and deals with stepfamily challenges? Tune in to my RemarriageWorks show on June 4 at 8 p.m. EST as I interview our advice columnist, Chuck Semich about the "Top Secrets of Stepfathers." 

Chuck Semich, a licensed family therapist who specializes in stepfamily relations in his private practice, was a stepchild and is a long-time stepfather and step-grandfather. Chuck's professional and personal experience with stepfamily living runs deep and wide. In honor of Father's Day, I thought it would be great to hear a man's point of view on blended families, stepparenting, and life as a stepdad.

This is your chance to hear the top secrets of stepfathers! Send your questions for Chuck to [email protected] or Tweet @RemarriageWorks by noon on June 4, and I will consider including them. One of my questions will be: "What do stepdads know that stepmoms don't?" And, "How does my husband seem to compartmentalize stepfamily challenges really well, and I don't?" More importantly, "How can I do that, too?"

The RemarriageWorks show will air live on the Stepmom's Toolbox Network on June 4 at 8 p.m. EST. It's a great opportunity to learn about what makes the stepfathers in our blended families tick!

A New Stepfamily Term Beyond Blended and Bonus

Wednesday, October 06, 2010
If you are a member of a stepfamily, you have probably struggled with the much written about dilemma of what to call each other. If you are planning to get remarried, I highly recommend discussing this topic before you remarry. Wanting to come up with some new terms to call stepfamilies, other than "step," "blended family," or "bonus family," I asked our fans on our Remarriage Works Facebook page for some ideas. We got some great ones!

Some terms that made me smile were: "lumpy families," "the majority,""fixed families," and "a box of cereal...a bunch of fruits, nuts, and flakes." On a more serious note, Giselle Minoli, who writes a very insightful stepparenting column on examiner.com, recently informed me about www.Para-Kin.com, a website founded by Debra Chernick, a family court attorney in Rhode Island.

According to her website, "our mission is to add words to our vocabulary and dictionary which will accurately reflect, describe and embrace the evolving family relationships through the promotion of 'para-kin' (which is trademarked by the way) terms." I guess I'd be a "Para-mom," and I like the idea of being "P-mom." It seems like a natural fit with "Paula" anyway.

While some of my stepfamily members may connect me better with the cereal suggestion, I highly recommend you take a look at Debra Chernick's www.Para-Kin website. It definitely provides food for thought.

The Seven-Year Mark: Don't Expect to Itch or Blend

Thursday, August 12, 2010
I'm sure you are familiar with the infamous term, "seven-year itch," known to be a hazard to marriage in the seventh year. For those who are remarried, the seven-year mark often takes on an entirely different meaning. Instead of feeling angst about the seven-year mark, I had been looking forward to it. I had been reading for a long time that some experts believe that seven years is the amount of time it takes for a stepfamily to successfully blend. There were many moments when I, anticipating easier times, couldn't wait for my seventh anniversary.

Now the realist in me knew that I wasn't going to wake up the first morning of my eighth year of remarriage and from then on experience a state of full-time bliss. And, for the most part, our stepfamily relationships were going much more smoothly in our seventh year than they were in our first year. But, I must admit that I've had some challenging days where I felt down because our stepfamily relationships weren't going as well as I thought they should be by a certain time.

According to Dr. Patricia Papernow, a psychologist who specializes in issues in stepfamilies, remarried couples, and post-divorce parenting and author of Becoming a Stepfamily: Patterns of Development in Remarried Families, the process of stepfamilies coming together can take from four to 12 years. Hearing that makes me feel better on the days when we still have some sticky issues. But, as our stepfamily counselor has pointed out to me many times, I need to stop setting expectations like this. (Yes, Chuck, it's finally sinking in.)

Setting up an expectation about how many years it takes to successfully blend is a double-edged sword. It can be a good thing because it can provide you hope and a sense that it takes many stepfamilies years to come together. Just don't let yourself feel bad if you still have the same challenges after the anniversaries pass. And, know that some stepfamilies never fully come together. 

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