Definitions, continued from p. 1
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?
- The "/"
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
glossary concludes on page 3