The 7 Principles of New Families

  1. A new family is formed when there is a change in the parental structure. This occurs following a divorce or death of a parent.
  2. New families are not built on the foundation of the prior family. The parent or parents of the new family must set how the new family will function. At times, there may be continuity between former rules and the way the current family will operate and between the different families— the only requirement is consistency within each newly established family.
  3. In preparing for divorce, when possible, each parent needs to start anew which optimally means moving out of the former shared residence. If it is not feasible for one of the parents to move out, then changing that residence to reflect their new family allows for a change in identity and opens the possibility of starting anew in the future with an additional parent.
  4. Communication is best when it occurs between the parents of the different families and not via the children. When the children are old enough they can make their own requests or work things out with their parents as they move between households.
  5. Giving children a false sense of decision making is not helpful. Children should be afforded choices, when that is possible, but should not be granted veto power regarding decisions that rest with the parents.
  6. After loss there is a tendency for parents to be more lax about boundaries (sleeping in parental bed) within their new family and have permeable boundaries (open door policy between houses) between families. Each parent needs to assess the wisdom of their policies around boundaries and to clearly define boundaries between and among the new families and within the family.
  7. With the addition of a new parent–if they are comfortable taking on the role of co-parent– it is best that the biologic parent makes it clear that decisions are made by “we.”  This can be a source of great friction when a new parent (and family) is in the equation of forming the new family.  It is obvious that the new step-parent is not replacing the same sexed biologic parent—they are though a parent in their own new family.