For many newlyweds, they not only gain a new spouse when they get married – they gain a whole new family, including stepchildren. Finding your place in your new family dynamic can be a wonderful but also challenging process. You may feel overwhelmed by the merging of two lifestyles, different relationship expectations based on families of origin, and different parenting models. 

Now add to this, the angst, insecurity, and fear of the battle-worn and displaced children struggling to find their space in this new arrangement. Keep in mind, this is an arrangement that they neither asked for, nor, in many cases, wanted. 

The main objective here is to act in your adult, and remember that all parents are entitled to parent – including stepparents. Also keep in mind that the only one that you can change is you.

Time to get real

It is important to get real: you will always be a step away from parent. That means that there are children in your house, whether on weekends or all the time, that on some level, perhaps not even a subtle level, may wish you were not around. Children who want the two most central people to their existence – mother and father – back together again may feel at fault for the break up, and they may also see you as the main roadblock to their reconciliation. 

Furthermore, these children may have inherited new step-siblings that they may not like, are jealous of, and have somehow found in their house. These children weren’t given a choice in the matter, and now a new family has formed instantly – with new rules and new people with whom they now must share their parent and all that attention. Talk about feeling out of control.

The Children

If the child or children are young, they neither have the skills nor sophistication to cope. Here we have the perfect environment for acting out behavior, or worse – depression, free floating anxiety, underachievement, or repressed hostility at the parent who got them into this predicament in the first place. This anger may not express itself for many years, making it much harder to have a successful resolution.

The Ex

Then, there is the final ingredient: the ex-mate. Ex is a terrible pronoun. It speaks of discount, invisibility, and no sphere of influence. Where once there was love and cooperation, now there may be fear and dislocation. Suddenly, the child sees someone else is in his mother’s or father’s life – and possession just might rear its ugly head. This can be a problem, and not an uncommon one at that.

Here is what I know: let go of guilt. You and your new husband or wife are one, and must not let anything or anyone put you asunder. So you must stick together, no matter what. The parent who doesn’t have full custody, often acts as the visiting parent, bearing residual guilt for the divorce – “guilt in search of a transgression,” – and maybe fearful of losing the love of their children. As a result, they are more vulnerable to the manipulations of those children who are also often acting out of misplaced loyalty on behalf of their absent parent.

In my next blog post, I’ll share a quick list of some specific tips to help you ease into your new role as a stepparent.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.