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“Co-wives,” a trendy term for ex-wives and “new wives” who put aside their differences to “co-parent the kids,” suggests something much creepier - that step-family life is akin to polygamy and that the ladies should be not only united caretakers but also BFFs. With one in three people in the UK now a step-parent, step-child, adult step-child, step-sibling or step-grandparent, can we please resolve to clean up our language in 2013? They “blend” into a semblance of a first family, with the step-parent “loving those kids just like they’re my own” and the kids returning the sentiment. After all, anyone in a remarriage with kids has likely been bludgeoned with the term and the idea by the media, well-intentioned friends, books on the topic of “blended family life” and even therapists who specialise in treating “blended families”. Because re-partnership with children or adult children is anything but an ambrosial smoothie. Ignorance about the reality of step-family life is what sinks the up to 72 per cent of remarriages with children that end in divorce.And fourth, step-kids, step-parents and parents in step-families face social bias and ignorance - the view that they are second best or abnormal.Every time we use the term “blended family” we pretend these important differences between first and step-families, or between first and subsequent marriages, don’t exist.Second, step-families often span two households, with kids making potentially stressful trips back and forth.Third, there’s an ex or deceased spouse in the picture.We perpetuate the idea that melding should be the goal - and that looking, feeling and acting like a first family is the only measure of success.This straight-jacket of expectations stresses all the player, preventing them from connecting in authentic ways.

There are practical things you can do to get through a time of bereavement or loss. Avoid things that "numb" the pain, such as alcohol.As one teen girl I interviewed told me of her dad’s wife, “I like her, but I don’t want her to be my mum!” Hope for Steps Step-families succeed, experts tell us, when the couple accepts that there’s nothing wrong with a kid preferring her own parent, or a parent feeling closer to his own child.“Wicked stepmother” can bring the most loving, self-confident woman with step-kids to her knees. Dad and his bride might feel her role is to help heal emotional scars, set the family on course, and be “another mother”.The dated and Dickensian “broken family,” still popular in the British press, perpetuates the inaccurate, damaging view that children and adults can never recover from divorce. In this powerful and common fantasy, parent, kids of any age and step-parent don’t just get along.

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