- learn to communicate effectively
A Guide to
Used in this Web Site
By Peter K.
Member NSRC Experts Council
address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/cx/tools/terms.htm
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To plan, negotiate, and
problem-solve effectively, your family members and supporters need
a clear, common language. My professional experience is that average adults
often have undeveloped family and relationship vocabularies, and they accept
that. That promotes fuzzy thinking, misunderstandings, arguments, and accumulations of
These promote frustrations, resentments, and distrusts, rather than
family problem-solving, and
healthy bonding. Words and the ideas they symbolize are our basic tools for nurturing
interpersonal relationships. Do you agree?
To improve the effectiveness of your communications,
these two pages define basic
communication, and family terms. How many of these
can you explain to another person now? Follow the links for brief information
on each term.
This glossary assumes you're familiar with
to this Web site and the premises
Definitions in alphabetical order.
of these links open informational popups, and others lead to paragraphs in
this page or in other articles in this site.
before you read about any of these terms, say your present definition out loud.
BIO- (prefix) -
denotes some aspect of a biological
(genetically-related) family. For example, biofamily role-titles are
biomother, biofather, biosister, biobrother, bio-grandparent, biochild, and
bio-kin. The prefix is useful because "standard" (pre-divorce) biofamily
are often very different from their post-divorce and stepfamily
(STEP)FAMILY - People who dislike the unpleasant associations of
"stepfamily" often use "blended family" instead.
In a true
blended ("complex") stepfamily, both mates have prior kids. Each mate
has two roles: stepparent and bioparent.
If a childless stepparent conceives a child
with a bioparent partner, that does not make them a blended stepfamily. All blended families are stepfamilies, but not all stepfamilies are blended. Confusing, isnt it? See "stepfamily"
CHILDHOOD - Before reading
more, evolve a thoughtful answer to three questions: "What was
your childhood?"; "Was it good or bad?;"
and "What factors influenced it the most?"
In this site, childhood means "The period of time in a person’s life
between their conception and their leaving home as a truly independent,
self-supporting adult." Clarity on this is important in fully understanding
which is the heart of the
(GWC) idea in this course and
It’s possible that
while we're in the womb. Some
neo-natal researchers suggest that how a pregnant woman copes
(e.g. with unbalanced diet or harmful drugs) can chemically affect
the development of her fetus.
Some people wonder if fetuses may be
organically traumatized by loud noises (like marital arguing) or
"commotion" outside their mother’s body. My hunch is that seriously
Moms may unconsciously deprive
their kids of primal nurturance in complex ways we havent
identified yet. What do you think?
Major factors that affect the
of your childhood are
school, and church nurturance
levels, and (b) significant traumas. Assessing how each
factor affected filling a child's
developmental needs can help to
validate and recover from
Every parent needs to ponder...
nurturing were my and my mate/s
childhoods?" (low > moderate > high); and...
were each of my and my partner's childhood caregivers?"
Its possible a child
has a moderately healthy family and still be
emotionally deprived and traumatized for several years in a low-nurturance
school, activity, or church - though
caregivers would prevent
occurs when any perceived behavior of one person or
significantly affects another person or subself spiritually, psychologically,
mentally, or physically. "Significantly" is a subjective judgment.
Because silence, withdrawal, or no contact
may affect the receiver, there is no such thing as "no
All behavior aims to reduce or prevent
physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual discomfort (needs).
people seek to fill by "communicating." One is the constant need for self and mutual
shapes all human communication and relationships.
(vs. "open and honest") communication happens when each person involved
feels clearly that they...
got all their current
needs met well enough,
in a way that leaves them feeling good enough about themselves, their
partner/s, and their shared process.
Three widespread factors that cause
ineffective communication are unseen psychological
+ ignorance of communication basics
and skills + personal unawareness of
dynamics. Studying and applying
can improve all three of these.
CO-PARENT - "Co-"
is from the Latin "com-," which meant "together." Co-parents are two
or more adults in any family who
intentionally nurture dependent kids together. Active grandparents, aunts,
and uncles and some older teens can act as co-parents
A co-parent can be a
bioparent. a childless stepparent, or involved adult relative. Legally and physically,
divorcing-family and stepfamily co-parents
are custodial, noncustodial, or share joint custody. "Parent" can
be a family
(noun) a nurturing process, (verb) or a person who conceives and/or
nurtures a child (noun).
Some caregivers have stepparent and bioparent roles ("dual-role co-parents").
may have three or more co-parents living in two or more related homes
with their resident and visiting bio-kids and stepkids. The
and social environment that typical kids, co-parents, and
co-grandparents live in differs in
up to 40 ways from intact biofamilies!
The term co-parent is emotionally neutral. That helps offset our old
cultural bias that bioparents are "better" or more "normal" or "natural"
than stepparents or foster parents.
- In human
relationships, this term means two or more people who don't have clear
("This is who I am, as a person") and
(limits) that separate one individual from the other. Thus an enmeshed
person can't distinguish the difference between my needs, feelings,
opinions, and priorities and yours. This condition is clear evidence of
Enmeshment is the polar opposite of two people being independent - meaning
neither has a strong need to
the other. A middle option is an interdependent relationship, where each
per-son has a clear, stable identity, and stable boundaries.
These combine to let them relate together as co-equal partners out of conscious
choice, vs. unconscious compulsion ("I can't live without you!")
addiction) is a form of enmeshment where the wounded person progressively loses awareness of her
or his own needs, feelings, and goals, and focuses consciously on living from those
attributes of another person. The roots of this condition (vs. "disease') seem to be two common
psychological wounds: excessive shame and obsessive
of rejection and abandonment - i.e. terror of being self-responsible and
Whole households and families can be enmeshed, in that each person's life and
"business" is seen as being each other member's business - e.g.
everyone listens to each others' phone calls, and reads other member's personal
mail. A member's asserting for personal privacy evokes strong criticism, scorn,
and resistance from other members - "Why do you feel you need to keep
secrets from us?!"
EXTENDED FAMILY - Traditionally, an extended bio(logical) family
is comprised of a child’s several
generations of living genetic and legal relatives
other than siblings and parents i.e. the group of all aunts, uncles,
cousins, and grandparents. Thus a nuclear family + extended family = "the whole
family." Some people use "extended family" to mean all related members.
Classically, a childs extended family is at least two bioparents, and four
DNA-related grandparents. Who comprises your extended family now? The
and extended can clarify who you're talking about and reduce
- Who comprises "the whole stepfamily"? Including all blood and
legal relatives of three or more related co-parents and their minor and grown kids,
typical extended stepfamilies can have
living in a dozen or more related homes all over the continent.
of possible relationships among all members is often boggling. How many of
your multi-generational family members would know what "extended stepfamily"
means and who it includes? Common stepfamily stressors are confusion and disagreement
- two or more people who feel significantly bonded by some mix of emotions,
commitments, history, genes (perhaps), legal contracts (like
a marriage license,
Order of Protection), last names, memories, customs, and ongoing dependencies.
Many families include one or more minor or gown children, and others do not.
exist in every age and culture because they fill some core
child and adult needs better than any
other human grouping. Can you name these specific core
needs? Would each of your
relatives say their current family fills all their
are many kinds of human family: biological or "birth family," absent-parent
(usually called "single parent"), foster, bi-racial, multi-cultural, adoptive,
communal, childless, step, same-gender partners, and psychological (non-DNA-related).
family type is normal (has existed in all cultures and eras), has some things in common
with all others, and some facets that are different (vs. better).
When people have no bonds or relationship with genetic relatives, they may
select other adults and kids (a psychological family) to try to fill
the needs that a genetic family would otherwise. In the best case,
psychological families can be as nurturing, functional, and durable as
healthy intact biofamilies.
As global human health
has vastly improved in recent centuries, intact two-parent biofamilies are becoming the
norm except in war-torn and disease-dominated societies. Typical multi-home stepfamilies
differ in more ways
from traditional intact biofamilies than any other family type does.
who consistently fill all members mental,
spiritual, psychological, and physical
needs well enough (vs. just the kids needs) can be called "high-nurturance." Do you agree? If so,
did you grow up in a high-nurturance family?
of your current nuclear and extended families? Would other members agree?
Gauge your basic knowledge about
families with this quiz.
Lesson 5 in this online self-improvement
focuses on growing a high-nurturance family.
- People and the media describe some
families as "dysfunctional" -
often without knowing what that means. Premise: families have
existed in every age and culture because they fill members'
better than other
human groups. To nurture
means "to fill someone's needs."
So a "functional" or
family is one that consistently fills all members' needs well enough
- in someone's opinion. What needs?
All healthy adults and kids have
Kids in intact biofamilies also have
developmental needs which require adult help to fill. Children of
divorce and abandonment and typical stepkids have additional sets of
A high-nurturance family consistently fills
all these adult and child needs well enough. Any family
may be judged to be somewhere between "very low nurturance" (dysfunctional)
and "very high nurturance" (functional).
Typical high-nurturance families have characteristic
traits - can you name them?
Young kids raised in families with too few
of these traits
by developing up to
The wounds have
on their adult
contentment, relationships (like psychological or legal
divorce or never
marrying); parenting effectiveness; wholistic health; and
in this site
provides an effective way to
over time, and break
of family dysfunction.
healthy family functioning.
FAMILY SYSTEM refers to
the combination of
All the emotionally, spiritually, and
genetically-important people comprising a
(multi-generational) family, plus
that govern how these people behave
together normally and in conflicts and crises; and
the physical and invisible
that separate this human system from other systems, like neighboring families, their city
and church community, the nation, and the local and global ecosystems.
Walls and doors,
clothing, "personal space," and words like "no" and "yes"
are basic tools we use to define the physical and emotional boundaries between our human
Awareness of these five facets of your dynamic family system can help all members
understand how a change in one part of the system (like a birth, divorce, graduation,
geographic move, death, injury, and financial change) affects all family members,
roles, rules, and sometimes the boundaries of the system. Understanding systemic changes
and their impacts on family members can help adults adapt and grieve well,
and guide kids to do the same.
All systems are composed of cascades of smaller subsystems. Each organ in the system of your body is a
subsystem. Each household of kids and adults is a subsystem of your larger
multi-generational family system. Common nuclear-family subsystems are
parent-child, spouse-spouse, siblings, and perhaps child/ren-pet/s.
Typical multi-home stepfamily systems can take four or more years to
stabilize after commitment vows and cohabiting, because of the great complexity of
three or more co-parents prior extended- biofamily systems into a much larger meta-system
– a system of systems
For more perspective, see this
Web site and this
- an adult who survived a
home and family
GWCs were significantly abandoned, neglected, and abused (traumatized) in their early years
i.e. they didn't get healthy, informed help filling their
GROWN WOUNDED CHILD (GWC)
To adapt, typical GWCs automatically develop protective
and up to five
The wounds significantly hinder kids'
(usually in midlife) and committing to personal
each GWC falls somewhere between "a little"
wounded to "moderately wounded" to "massively
wounded." The latter often make headlines as sociopaths, criminals, "borderline
"suicides," "tyrants," "serial killers,"
Most of the hundreds of troubled persons
and couples I’ve met as a therapist since 1981 have been significantly
wounded, and were unaware of that and what it
of their wounds, and the early-childhood
neglect that caused them.
typical GWCs break their denial and begin true
they (a) repeatedly pick wounded partners
(and often divorce), and (b)
psychological wounds to their dependent kids just
like their ancestors did. Neither reflex is intentional. They
both can be avoided through
learning and intentional personal healing.
(like me) seem to be significantly-wounded
survivors in varying stages
of denial or true (vs. pseudo) recovery. Ive been in
proactive personal recovery since 1986. It works! In these articles,
focuses on adults
and reducing psychological wounds
and helping their kids
to develop and trust their
article for more on detail Grown Wounded
GROWN NURTURED CHILD (GNC)
- a "GNC" is an adult who grew up in a
extended family, and
childhood. Typical GNCs' inner
are usually led by their
, and they are
usually choose other GNCs for partners, and maintain
long-term relationships with them.
I suspect that American GNCs are a small minority,
judging from our horrendous crime, abortion, abuse, welfare, suicide,
addiction, litigation, obesity, divorces, and homelessness statistics. This
is relentlessly promoted
and denial, and...
indifference to (a)
epidemic unwise marriages and child-conceptions, and (b)
Both can be
HALF BROTHER, HALF SISTER - Unlike
traditional biofamilies, stepfamilies can have dependent and/or grown
hers, and ours kids. When a mom or dad conceives kids with two
or more partners, the kids share only the parent's genes.
half-sibling does not have the role or
title of stepchild (has no stepparent), even though s/hes a member of a multi-home
siblings feel the same kind of psychological
biological siblings do? Would you feel
good about being a half anything? Because half-sibs are a small minority in
our culture, they can feel inferior and/or abnormal, even if theyre consistently treated as having equal dignity and value
by family members.
Their co-parents may "leak" unconscious beliefs that half siblings are somehow
"sub-standard," or are "deprived" of "normalcy."
co-parent awareness and effective nurturing, such leaked beliefs can lower an
"ours" childs self respect, which can effect their stepfamily and
stepmom or stepdad who conceives an ours baby can show unconscious favoritism
for their new child vs. their stepkids, despite determination not to. Kids of divorce
are often hypersensitive to potential caregiver rejection and abandonment. Imagined or
actual co-parent favoritism generates understandable resentments in both the
"lesser" kids and their loyal bioparents and bio-kin.
Without stepfamily awareness
and effective communication
household tension, and escalating re/marital strife. Blood
(usually) "thicker than
A common stepfamily
myth is that having
an ours baby will nourish a troubled re/marriage, and strengthen a conflicted
co-parenting home. There is a significant risk that the reverse will be true.
HEALTHY / TOXIC RELATIONSHIP
- premise: two people have a
relationship when the perceived behaviors of one significantly affect the
wholistic health, functioning, and growth of the other – in someone’s
Significantly is a subjective judgment.
a healthy relationship
is one that helps
to fill (vs. impede) each partners key
well enough, over some
time period - according to somebody. The wholistic health of any relationship
(toxic > low > high) can be judged by at
least three people: person A, person B, and an outside judge.
Their opinions may
mesh or clash, depending on their definitions and rankings of "key wholistic
needs." One way of describing the wholistic health
(nurturance level) of a nuclear or
extended family is to say "it is the sum of the basic wholistic healths of
that comprise the family."
relationship is one which consistently impedes filling one or both
partners’ current and long-tem
Symptoms of a toxic relationship
occur when one or both partners often feel significant
are often controlled by a protective
Until in meaningful
wound-recovery, the ruling subselves of such people usually choose and endure toxic relationships
because they distrust or don't know other
Clarity on what "healthy (interpersonal) relationship" means
can help people
they had a nourishing or toxic relationship with key childhood caregivers. It can also help assess and improve the relationships
in this self-improvement course focuses on healthy relationships.
(by a caregiver) What if a person in power (like a parent) unintentionally
does things that "significantly harm" a dependent person? If the power-person
accepts responsibility for the dependents
welfare, such harmful behavior is neglect. Restated -
a family context, neglect means intentionally disregarding the needs and welfare of a
dependent child or adult.
Self-neglect occurs when the dependent person is you.
Premise - adults
conceive children and/or...
agree to provide part-time or full-time care
for other peoples children, and who...
clearly fail to...
are neglectful (vs. "bad").
The opposite of caregiver neglect is
nurturance intentionally, consistently
helping to fill dependent kids
key health, growth, and special needs.
Until well into personal
routinely neglect aspects of their own
sobering evidence of how wide-spread self-neglect is in America, see this
- A nucleus is the core of something, like the yolk of an egg. Traditionally, the
nucleus of a biological family is (both bioparents + all dependent
kids). More broadly,
a nuclear biofamily refers to all
people regularly living in a minor child's main home. Use "nuclear family"
when you want to focus on co-parents and dependent kids, rather than the larger
multi-generational group of all biological and legal relatives in their extended family.
- includes all
co-parenting adults and the minor and grown stepkids
regularly living in one or more of their related homes. This term helps
identify which part of a stepfamily is being discussed. If one of a
stepchild's bioparents is dead or out of contact, s/he's still a member of
the child's nuclear stepfamily system because of their ongoing genetic,
emotional, ancestral, and often legal, and financial influences.
rules, finances, legalities,
vacations, and general stability,
systems are far more complex
than intact nuclear biofamilies! Reality-check this with any veteran
stepfamily adult or child!
a typical stepfamily co-parent or child "Who's your family?"
Theyll usually identify the people regularly living in and visiting their primary
home. Typical stepfamilies work best when all members respect the needs,
opinions, and feelings
of people in all their related co-parenting homes.
do themselves and dependent kids a favor
by consistently saying "My nuclear stepfamily lives in two (or
more) co-parenting homes. We’re a group of related kids and adults with a
and shared strengths, resources, and
tasks." Would you say something like
that? Would your co-parenting partners?
- A biological parent is someone
who contributed half the genes of a living or dead child, and usually their
last name. A psychological parent is any person who tries to fill the primary wholistic needs (nutrition, shelter, safety,
stimulation, health-care, guidance,
) of a dependent child, part-time
or full time, whether genetically
related or not. So
the noun parent can refer to
a person, a role, or both.
Weve evolved unique labels for many different types of parent (child
nurturer), to symbolize key
differences in their responsibilities, roles, and relationships
with their kids. For example, (bio)mom, (bio)father), bioparent, foster parent, day-care provider,
governess, (legal) guardian, au pair, nurse, and adoptive parent.
All have some legal responsibilities
for their dependent kids, while stepparents have few or none This
varies by the State of residence.
and bio-grandparents instinctively feel a fierce
with their DNA kids
and grandkids, which typical psychological (non-DNA) parents and
grandparents can only
approach. Yes, there are exceptions!
not be able to bond with their genetic (or any) child/ren, and must
pretend to do so in a world where genuine bonding is prized and expected.
PARENT, PARENTING (verb)
the dynamic process of intentionally trying to fill a dependent or grown childs primary
Caregiving may mean parenting, or may mean
intentionally providing for only special needs - e.g. a nurse, teacher, or street-crossing
guard provides limited childcare, not full parenting.
Some men and women are more
effective at parenting than others. Can you describe what
effective parenting is - specifically? If co-parents have unclear or
significantly-conflicting definitions of effective
parenting, will that harm dependent kids? Can a family with one or more ineffective
parent is one who...
wants to patiently
and empathically help fill
the developmental and special needs of a child, from
dependence to stable young-adult independence and social productivity; while...
balanced, nurturing and growing themselves,
wanting to maintain a stable-enough high-nurturance
family environment and
the lethal [wounds + unawareness]
How does this compare
with your definition? Your other family adults' definitions?
notes that it may be a stepparent's first union. The English author Samuel Johnson observed
200 years ago that "remarriage is the triumph of hope over experience." Unlike
Johnson, "remarriage" here doesn't mean a divorced couple who marry each other
again. Most (~70%)
American co-parents form or join
many things: a legal contract, a vowed
commitment to another, a commitment ceremony, a social and legal status, a state of mind,
a special (often conjugal) relationship between two partners, a cultural and social
"institution," and a spiritual and religious covenant and sacrament.
Mates may or may not share the same mix of meanings for "we're married." A
divorcing person may change their
original definition of "marriage"...
can mean a legal process, an emotional/spiritual process, a court event, a state of mind,
and a societal event, statistic, and stressor. Mates can begin divorcing psychologically long before physical
separation and/or legal dissolution occurs.
Some couples may legally divorce, and one
or both mates remain emotionally bonded by needs, longing, hatred,
resentment, guilt, and/or love - specially if they conceived one or more kids.
Ongoing post-separation court battles over child custody, visitations,
education, health, religion, and/or finances are a clear
People casually agree
that "divorce" is traumatic, without defining what
they're referring to. Often the stressful household relationships leading up to
separation cause far more
than the legal divorce process or
For more perspective on re/marriage, see
this article and
these Q&A items.
For three practical steps to prevent
divorce, see this.
comes from the thousand-year-old English root "stoep-," which meant
"not related by marriage," deprived, or orphaned. Orphans were common in William the
Conquerors world. Like "bio-," the
prefix "step-" denotes a group of social relationships and family roles like stepfamily,
stepparent, stepmother, step-grandfather, stepsister, step
great-aunt, step-cousin, and
If the relationships, and the
developmental stages and
tasks in typical
were the same as in
average intact biofamilies, we wouldnt need these many terms and titles. Their
respective roles, structures, and developmental phases are
often (confusingly) the same and different, so
we need "step-"
and "bio-" terms to discuss stepfamily matters effectively!
For some people, words beginning
with "step-" are unconsciously associated with second best, abnormal, failure,
inferior, weird, or strange. Such words are constant reminders of prior divorce or death losses,
pain, guilt, shame, sadness, and inadequacy. Cinderella and our unaware media steadily
remind adults and kids to
regard anything "step-" as abnormal, and implicitly flawed or "not as
adults and kids are
extra sensitive to such disparaging word-associations. To minimize unpleasant feelings
and social scorn,
they often intentionally or unconsciously avoid or disparage "step-"
which really do fit their
This avoidance - and adult and societal
ignorance of stepfamily basics
- promote unrealistic
role and relationship expectations, hurts, frustrations,
confusions, disappointments, and conflicts.
family terms and role-titles count!
– these titles describe the family
filled by any minor or grown child of a bioparent who is committed to a new
mate (a stepparent). Serious co-parental courtship creates paired
stepchild-stepparent (and related) roles. The co-parents’ commitment
ceremony and marriage license creates legal responsibilities for
stepchilds bioparent may be widowed, divorcing, separated, or never
married. A stepchild may or may
not be legally adopted by their
stepparent/s - most are not. Roughly 20% of the
students in typical American schools are stepkids - more in inner cities. Roughly
another 20% now live in absent-parent homes, and will have the role of stepchild before they register to
Depending on many factors,
minor stepkids have
up to four sets of concurrent
toward adult independence, while ...
adapting to up to six
which hinder ...
grieving and adjusting to biofamily
These can combine to total over 60
concurrent personal needs
for a given minor child. Few family adults and mental-health professionals can name, let alone provide
informed, effective guidance on, all of them. Can you?
Stepfamily breakups add a fifth
set of concurrent adjustment needs. Without hard evidence,
some authors estimate that over half of American stepfamily
within seven years of their vows. Millions of others choose to
endure psychological divorce. I can find no meaningful research on the effect on typical
minor girls and boys of several family breakups...
Stepkids can be emotionally
or more co-parents, in two or more homes. They may have biosiblings,
stepsiblings, and half-siblings who have different last names, sometimes different from their own (remarried) biomom. Stepkids can be
or hassled by
biological and step-relatives
All their step-relatives together,
including some theyll never meet, would fill a small hall. Could sorting out,
clarifying, and stabilizing this dynamic web of strange
average child trying to negotiate middle school, puberty, global
warming, terrorism, and high
school? Ask your nearest stepchild.
For more perspective on
follow the links, and/or study
Many lay people and human-service professionals are vague or unclear on
what this term means. A
stepfamily is any emotionally-bonded family including at
least one part-time or full-time (custodial) stepparent, and one resident or visiting, minor or grown
stepchild. Most stepfamily
rules, and dynamics begin
when co-parent couples begin to date seriously -
All emotionally, genetically, and financially important relatives to
each stepchild, (b) each of their bioparents, and (c) each stepparent, are
their multi-generational stepfamily. Some may not want to
be. Others will feel confused or ambivalent about membership, or may not realize
they're in a "stepfamily."
all ex mates who conceived
a biochild and later divorced are ongoing members of a childs stepfamily,
whether they and/or other co-parents like that or not. Scan this stepfamily
(map) to make this more vivid.
There are almost 100
of multi-home stepfamily,
because of combinations of co-parents prior divorce or death, ex-mate re/marriage,
stepchild adoption, and "ours" kid
conceptions, Unlike traditional biofamilies, this
diversity guarantees that
stepfamily adults and kids will rarely or never meet a person in
a stepfamily like theirs.
This often promotes feelings of isolation and
for insecure kids and adults. These increase the need for
co-parents intentionally evolving a stepfamily-aware support network.
Media authors and commentators use a creative set of family adjectives to avoid the negative
taint of "step-": bi-nuclear,
rem(arriage), combined, reconstituted, merged, blended,
reconstructed, serial, second,
well-meant terms promote stepfamily ignorance, denials, and myths.
and unrealistic stepfamily
which cause disappointments, hurts, frustrations, and significant stress.
To minimize stress and avoid re/divorce trauma for everyone, study
and apply this ad-free online self-improvement
Before reading further, try saying your definition out loud, and compare it
to this: a stepparent
is a man or woman who is...
emotionally committed to a
or widowed bioparent,
chooses to fill the
part-time or full-time nurturer, guide, and supporter to one or more of their
partners children from a prior union; The stepparent...
may or may not have biological
and/or adopted children of her/his own,' and...
probably has fewer legal
parental rights and responsibilities than a biological parent in the
same state or province, unless s/he legally
adopts their stepchild/ren.
Note that stepparent, stepmother, and stepfather are
family roles (sets of responsibilities),
not the person filling the role. If you feel that a
stepparent role is somehow "inferior" or "abnormal,"
grant that the woman or man accepting that challenging role is not an inferior
Note also that people filling stepmother or stepfather
roles can be married or not, custodial or not, a bioparent or not, and a different
nationality, race, gender, culture, and/or religion than their mate or stepchild/ren
Research suggests that typical first-marriage mates are
significantly more alike in
these factors than average step-couples. Wider age gaps and older
female partners are also more common in
re/marriages. This implies that
there are more apt to be
stepfamily relationships than in typical intact biofamilies. My personal and clinical experience
validates this. The "/" in re/marriage notes that it may be one partner's
A stepparent may be emotionally committed to (love) a bioparent, and not
really want to relate to or nurture their mate’s prior
kids. Such men and women provide co-parenting out of ambivalence,
duty, guilt, and/or fear of something. This lose-lose-lose scenario can occur when a minor
stepchild unexpectedly moves from one bioparents home to their
One of 60 common stepfamily
myths is "Your (or my) biokids will always live with their
other bioparent." Another is: "Your grown child will never come to live with
us." Over time, the first of these expectations proves false in ~30% of
For more perspective on stepparenting, see this
Family adults seek cooperation and genuine teamwork in and between
their related homes. (Right?) Yet many have only a vague idea about how to
co-create effective teamwork.
What distinguishes a team from other groups of
people? Sports teams compete with each other to see who's "best." Other teams
are noncompetitive. A team is two or more people who chose to, or have to, help each other achieve a
When team-members achieve their personal and group goals in a way all feel
proud of, they can be called
Have you ever been part of a really effective team (or committee, troupe,
troop, clan, gang, squad, cast, task force, or class)? If so, what made it
effective? Compare your experience to this premise:
Elements of an effective team include...
One or several clear
that are (a) understood and
(b) genuinely valued by all team members; and...
to achieve the goal/s, including agreement on
who is responsible for what
(clear roles), when, and how (team
One or more people who choose to
lead the team.
Effective team leaders are adept at...
and matching team-members' talents and interests with
steps in the plan (responsibilities)
And an effective team of any sort...
enough human and other
resources to progress toward the team's goals; and...
needs freedom and
to act on their goals.
Typical family adults can profit from
sharing a common definition of "effective teamwork"
in four or five domains:
multi-home extended family
any professionals they hire, like lawyers, tutors,
doctors, clinicians, and child-care helpers; and...
any family support group
they participate in.
In this site,
offers resources to build an effective high-nurturance team of family
extends this to focus on building an effective stepfamily team over time,
despite major challenges. Typical
stepfamily co-parents must over-come
as they work together to master
- This and the related words "traumatic" and "traumatized" are emotionally
evocative for most people. Try saying out loud what you associate with them
now. ("A trauma is ____ ...") Like other
"hand-grenade" terms, many
people casually use these without really defining what they mean.
Because people vary in defining what a "trauma" is and what it causes,
misunderstandings can occur if speakers don't clarify what they mean in
important conversations. Example; "I was SO traumatized this morning - I
lost my car and house keys!" has a far different scope of meaning than "My
doctor just told me I have pancreatic cancer and will die soon!"
A general definition trauma is "an
expected or actual event that causes extreme emotional, mental, and perhaps physical and
spiritual discomfort and injury." Extreme is a subjective
judgment. How does this compare with your definition?
self-improvement Web site proposes that ineffective parenting of young
children traumatizes them, which may promote significant psychological
Without informed intervention, these wounds get passed on to their
children, continuing the lethal
[wounds + unawareness]
that is silently crippling our culture.
WHOLISTIC HEALTH -
Here, wholistic (or "holistic") means
(mental + spiritual + emotional + physical). Health means "functioning
and growing at normal
adult or child can be judged to
be somewhere between "very wholistically healthy" and "very wholistically
person's physical health is directly proportional to their
spiritual + mental health.
Those are directly proportional to the
present, if any - i.e. whether the person's
is guided by a
here offers a way of
the resident true Self to
a familys (or any
groups) degree of wholistic health and its
are directly proportional to the personal
wholistic health of its individual leaders.
How do you feel about
these proposals? On a scale of one (very low) to ten (very high), how would you
rank your current wholistic health? ___ Your family's nurturance level?
For more perspective
on wholistic health, see
this article and
this sobering research summary.
FAMILY IDENTITY -
Unless you're blind,
your brain constantly compares visual images
to those stored in your brain to
identify what you're looking at - a
frog, a mailbox, a sunset, your face in the mirror, etc. We order our
complex world by categorizing things into unique identities with certain
characteristics. (A frog is not a radish because...).
All families are the same in some ways and unique in others - e.g. dwelling, education, number of members, race, ethnic background,
religious and political preferences, wealth, health, names, lifestyle,
etc. Most people unconsciously make comparative judgments about their own
family's status compared to other family types. This is a modern form of the
ancient human reflex of judging "our tribe" to be inferior or superior to "their
are the common social bias that
families and stepfamilies are
"inferior in some ways" to traditional intact biofamilies, Some feel that
Catholic or Jewish families are "better" (or worse) than Muslim, Hindu, or
Navajo families, and Christian families are superior to (or "more fortunate
than") atheist clans.
Family identity can be a significant
source of personal and social
or anxiety and embarrassment in families controlled by wounded
are often highly sensitive to being seen as "better" or "worse" than other
people or groups, and may need to aggressively boast or disparage others to
maintain the illusion of self-respect.
Families run by adults
are apt to view all families as equal in worth despite their differences
("We're all part of the human
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