Week 7: Overview
Extended Stepfamily Constellations: Relationships with Ex-Spouses
If we have learned anything thus far, we have learned that transitions are not easy. We have learned that building loving and connected families take time. With the rise in stepfamilies, the data show that about 25% of all children do not live with his or her biological fathers and another 16% do not reside with their biological mothers (Gold, J., 2016). Gone are the days when a child had one or two parents- with extended stepfamily constellations a child may in fact have two to four parents in any combination.
Chapter 8 reviews the statistics on extended stepfamily constellations. The chapter shares the experiences of ex-spouses, nonresidential fathers, and nonresidential mothers. The chapter also addresses the dominant social myths about stepfamilies and ex-spouses.
You will be asked to read chapter 8: Extended Stepfamily Constellations, and the article “Dealing with Difficult Ex-Spouses: 10 Tips to Help You Cope” (located in Week 7 Activities). Also, there will be two discussion questions based on this week’s readings.
By the end of this week, students will:
· Discuss the key challenges of ex-spouses based on their experiences
· Discuss the dominant social myths about stepfamilies and ex-spouses
· Identify key coping tips for stepfamilies and ex-spouses
· Week 7: Lecture
· Experiences of Ex-Spouses
· While most families do not enter into remarriage lightly, they continue to have misconceptions and are naive about the amount of energy it will actually take to successfully sustain such an endeavor. The former spousal-parent system may be ignored completely. As stepparents work to fill their roles, it is expected that they will have to deal with a certain amount of strife.
· In the counseling setting, you will be tasked with assisting the ex-spouses in the work to get to a place of collaboration so the co-parenting can be effective. In fact, you will wear many hats as the counselor of a stepfamily, from the multiple interpersonal dynamics to the complex issues such as custody or death.
· As a counselor, you can offer a safe place for the stepfamily members to share feelings and resolve challenges. You may have to act as a mediator when some family members dialogue on their issues. Also, you may have to act as a role model for a child from a stepfamily dynamic by modeling positive conflict resolution and coping skills.
Week 7: Lecture
Non-Residential Fathers and Mothers
Non-residential fathers and mothers face similar challenges in the stepfamily dynamic. The non-residential parents both may experience lack of involvement in their child’s changing life occurrences. Non-residential fathers experience two types of emotional responses: 1) response revolves around concerns for generic parenting disagreements; 2) response revolves around relationships of powerlessness and despair for lack of parental involvement.
Similar challenges abound for the non-residential mother. She has found herself to be on the fringe with her children and the lack of her active presence can cause poor transitions for the children. The text shares five types of non-custodial mothers.
1. The “open mom” loves the children, is collaborative in parenting, has resolved the divorce issues, and sees the stepmother as a positive force for both her ex-husband and the children.
2. The “me mom” tends to have left the marriage for her own personal or professional advancement, feeling constrained by the role of mother and wife.
3. The “over-involved” mom may have been divorced because the ex-husband wanted to marry the current stepmother.
4. The “stonewalling mom” carries continual anger and resentment toward the husband for the divorce and, by implication, toward the stepmother for taking her place.
5. The distant, abusive, destructive, or addicted mother connects with children for her own selfish needs.
As a counselor, your ultimate goal is to encourage full and active participation in the family transition. The intensity of this support will be gauged by the type of noncustodial role the mother displays. Moving forward with her life and supporting the new stepfamily dynamic is key to positive change.
Week 7: Lecture
Dominant Social Myths About Stepfamilies and Ex-Spouses
On average one would expect a certain level of negativity when forming the blended family from many of the persons involved, particularly if someone feels his or her needs are not being met. When this challenge arises, triangulation may rear its head in the most unsuspecting places. In regards to the family structure, triangulation is considered a Bowenian term, and it is a dysfunctional way of indirect communication between three family members. For example, one member expresses dissatisfaction with another but only shares it with one of the indirect family members in hopes that this family member will share the information. Below, see the five dominant social myths identified by the text about stepfamilies and ex-spouses.
Five Dominant Social Myths About Stepfamilies and Ex-Spouses
Myth #1: Children can be loyal only to the biological parent, not to the stepparent
Myth #2: Divorced couples cannot agree on anything
Myth #3: Divorced couples want the ex-spouse out of the children’s lives
Myth #4: The stepparent is trying to “replace” the biological parent
Myth #5: All the ex-spouse wants is financial support
Myths are much like stereotypes in that a person believes the stories or narratives surrounding the activity or person based on previous understandings of how someone “usually” acts from that population or involvement. This is problematic for a few reasons. If you in fact have these preconceived ideas, notions, stereotypes, or myths in your head they will impact how you interact with individuals. Moreover, the residual effects of having these myths in your head when providing services to clients will hinder your effectiveness as well. You are not able to fully render quality services if you have myths as the foundation of your clinical judgement.
Week 7: Activities
Please read the following for this week as well as All Week 7 Online Course Materials:
· Gold, J. M. (2015). Stepping In, Stepping Out: Creating Stepfamily Rhythm. Wiley.
· Chapter 8
· Deal, LMFT, LPC, R. L. (n.d.). Dealing with a Difficult Ex-Spouse: 10 Tips to Help You Cope. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://www.smartstepfamilies.com/view/116