Psychological Self-Help

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mother, and only 10% of the time do both parents bring children into
a blended family. 
People remarry for the same complex reasons they marry. It is our
second chance for happiness. We have more life experience and tend
to select better partners the second time. Yet, less than half of
remarrieds make it through the early years and find lasting happiness
there; they may need a third or a fourth marriage, which seems to
work out better. Many second marriages are highly stressful during the
first couple of years in which parents' love has to be shared and new
relationships are being worked out: the new spouse's family of origin,
the step-children and step-parents, the step-siblings, etc. Moreover,
financial problems are common, especially if there are step-children
and/or biological children with a former spouse to support. Remarriage
may also involve relocating and dealing with one or two troublesome
ex-spouses. Equally important, it may involve losing contact with your
own children and intense, bewildering animosity from your new step-
children, particularly if the step-parent attempts to discipline. 
Some research shows that early in the second marriage step-
children are two times more likely to have school problems and four
times more likely to have psychological problems than children living
with both biological parents. Children living with a step-parent even
have more problems with conduct and adjustment than children living
with a single parent. But, are the problems of step-children the result
of divorce or remarriage or both? We don't know for sure yet;
however, new research suggests that bitter divorces and continued
fighting between biological parents cause more problems for the
children than step-parents do. In any case, the leftover problems from
the old marriage plus the integration of additional people into the new
"family" put blended marriage to a severe test (Levine, 1990;
Goetting, 1982). 
Psychology Today (May, 1994) summarized the information we
have about step-families. They find hopeful signs for the one in three
children with a step-parent (by 2000 there will be more children with a
step-parent than there are children living with both biological parents),
for example: 
Once the blended family has adjusted to new members and
roles, it is more satisfying, more supportive, more complex,
and a better learning-to-cope environment than traditional
families. Therefore, don't strive for a totally happy family
immediately. These complex emotional adjustments take three
to five years involving lots of family discussions about how to
accommodate each other. 
After the first five years, step-families are more likely to last
than first marriages. People can find the love and care they
need there; the children see happy, loving parents. 
80% of the children raised in a step-family are well adjusted;
they are tough, flexible, sensitive to and willing to
accommodate other's emotional needs, and prepared to face
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