And How to defeat Them all!
Military stepfamilies face many unique stressors including marrying, divorcing, and remarrying at a younger age and more frequently than civilians. However, in addition to these common stressors there are 3 that can bring a blending stepfamily to a stand still if not handled correctly. If you are a military stepfamily, try these tips for overcoming the stress and restoring peace to your blended family household.
1. The rigid military lifestyle is a part of a highly disciplined and rigid military unit, but not of your stepfamily. The key here is to remember that rank is not enforced inside your home, but relationships are. If you are the step parent, allow time and trust to develop with a child before trying your hand at discipline without the bio-parent by your side
Be careful not to force military-grade structure on to your stepchildren if you haven’t yet earned the right to lead.
Start some new traditions to help your family blend and to overcome rigidity.
2. Frequent moves (PCS) cause noncustodial parents to face long separations from their children, and may increase a sense of shame and guilt. These frequent PCS's can also adversely impact your custody order and hamper visitation due to new travel requirements.
Understand your custody order and the law of your home state especially if you are the custodial parent. Understand that many states have a geographic boundary written into their custody orders that automatically calls for a new hearing. Check with your base legal office early once you know a PCS is in your future.
Custodial parents be understanding of your children / stepchildren who feel a deep sense of loss over moving. Allow them free contact with their bio-parent and friends.
Non-custodial parents create a family long distance plan. Include staying in touch through social media, video messaging, and a calendar highlighting upcoming visits.
3. Deployments can force stepparents to take on the full-time parent role before they or the children may be ready. Keep in mind that a step parent by law has no legal standing unless you and your ex give it to them. Having a pre-drafted care plan between you and your ex that clearly lays out what the step parent can and can not do, long before you deploy, is best for everyone, especially for the well being of your children and to continue the relationships that have started growing within your new stepfamily.
Before the deployment remember stepparents have no legal rights and require a notarized power of attorney. Create a deployment parenting plan that includes events and an agreed upon course of action. Don't forget to have form 7666 "Parental Consent"as part of your family care plan.
During the deployment update your spouse on what is happening in the house, understanding they have their own stresses. Utilize the resources of your base Family Readiness Group / Family Advocacy Programs to help you while your spouse is away.
After the deployment treat re-integration the same as you treated your first year as a new stepfamily. Take things slow and gradually making changes. Seek help early for any family issues after deployment.