Interview With a Counsellor: The Benefits of Family Counselling
One in three people in the UK today is likely to be involved in a step family in some way at some point in their life. In a new family, children come as part of the package and it is very common for the step parent to suffer from feelings of guilt, isolation and anxiety. The established parent can also find things hard and have worries and concerns of their own.
Benefits of CounsellingThe benefits of counselling to help both your relationship and your family are well documented, and RELATE is undoubtedly the best known organisation to assist with this. Counsellors are trained to deal with the specific issues encountered by step families and are there to listen and suggest a variety of solutions that can be very useful in helping families to move forward.
Living with Other People’s ChildrenLiving with other people’s children is never easy, and in her book Step Families, counsellor Suzie Hayman gives sound, practical advice on dealing with everything from balancing the needs of you and your partner with the needs of your children, to coming to terms with the role of the ex partner and deciding whether or not to have another baby, counsellors who work with step families are well aware of the pressures and problems that can occur when two families take the major decision to blend their lives.
Making ChangesQ. So Why do Step Families Need Counselling?
A. Suzie said: “Any group of people who are in contact with each other will have arguments and disagreements from time to time, and families are not exceptions to this. When your family is a second one you might find that these arguments seem more bitter, longer and harder to resolve. You may feel that all your problems are the fault of an ex partner, yourself for not trying harder or an unruly child.”
Steps Towards a SolutionQ. Is There an Easy Answer to Dealing with Problems within Step Families?
A. Suzie added: “In a situation like this you can take some steps to make things better by exploring what is happening in yourself and in those around you, understanding why you feel and act the way you do, and by acting to make some positive changes in your responses and behaviour to bring about the arrangement you would like.”
New Skills are NeededThe variety and complexity of family life today means that new parenting skills are having to be learnt all the time. Step-parenting is one of those new skills. In this situation it's not only your feelings that have to be taken into account, but those of your partner and the children. You need your partner's support and understanding, and together you should agree guidelines on how to treat the children. Some of the areas that you should agree on are discipline, privacy (for all of you) and arrangements with the absent parent. It may take time for a child to get used to new arrangements and different ways of doing things. This is a new relationship for all of you and if you don't have children of your own, a ready-made, part-time family will be difficult to deal with until new routines are established.
Q. What are the Main Difficulties That Blended Families Can Experience?
A. Suzie said: “Part of the difficulty with a blended family is that step parents are usually expected to take on the role of a parent. That is they are expected to love, care for, discipline and provide for children who are seen as theirs which is where many of the problems start. A new partner may smoothly replace the old one in the adult’s eyes, but as far as a child is concerned a parent is your parent for life.”