Review the premises for healthy
("functional") stepfamilies, and edit them as you wish. Then review the functional (baseline) stepfamily maps
(examples # 4 -7). Now focus on individual homes in your maps, and then on your stepfamily
as a whole multi-home
For productive discussions
with yourself and others, explore questions like these:
co-parents do we have in our
homes do they live in now? Do all our co-parents accept that they
to the same
If not - how is that
affecting our minor children? What specific differences might it make if all our
three or more co-parents acknowledged that were all in this together - for years
"In this house -
and in our whole stepfamily - what are our specific structural strengths?"
_ Our co-parents
are solidly in charge of (one or all) home/s;
_ No one
regularly feels excessively excluded or ignored;
_ Communications between various people in and between our homes are normally
clear, direct, and
_ There are no
alliances, or oppositions now in and between our several homes;
_ Our stepfamily
relationship structure is pretty functional and stable, both before and during
child visitations (and/or other specially-stressful times);
_ We now have
all the human resources we need to effectively make needed structural changes in
this home, or in our whole multi-home stepfamily;
_ My partner and
I can usually talk clearly and honestly enough together about our homes and
stepfamilys structure; etc.
What other structural
do you see in your home? In your whole stepfamily?
whos really in charge most of the time?" If anyone other than the
resident co-parents is - or if no one is - youve just defined a vital re/marital
and co-parental problem to resolve. It will not go away by itself.
"If the resident co-parent/s arent in charge of (a certain home),
how does that affect each of our resident and visiting minor children, over time?"
"If a minor
child in this home is consistently above the (co-parenting) line
"if a resident co-parent is usually below the line
would it take to get them to move above the line and stay there?"; "Whos
responsible for helping them do that? What will happen if they cant or wont?"
"If there are
between two or more
members of this home - or between two of our stepfamily homes - what would it take to fix
that?" "Whos responsible?" "If we dont get this fixed,
how will that affect me/us?" "How will it affect our resident and
visiting minor children, over time?"
"If someone in this home feels
rejected or excluded, are they doing that to themselves, or is someone
else pushing them out?" "What do I (or we) need to do about this, if
anything?" "What may happen if I (we) dont?"
emotional and social
of any one of our homes are too rigid - or too
vague and flimsy - how does that affect me and us?" "How does it
affect our minor kids living there, over time?"
"Who in our
stepfamily generally determines the relationship structure of this home? Of our whole
multi-home stepfamily?" "Is that OK?" "Is it working
would happen if I asked the other co-parents in our stepfamily to draw their own
structural maps, and discuss these questions co-operatively?" "What benefits
might that bring to them?" "To us all?" "Whats in the
way of doing this together now?"
Pause again, and give
yourself a chance to become aware of where your thoughts want to go - and what youre
feeling (or not feeling
). Write about these now, for later review and
sharing. Theyll never be as fresh as at this instant
Millions of American multi-home stepfamilies (re/marriages) fail, within ~10 years of their founding. One of
several key reasons is their great structural complexity, and the related challenge
to co-parents of managing them effectively.
The emotional structure of
any familys home is composed of invisible things like
leadership and power, communication flows and
To avoid re/divorce trauma for you and your dependent kids, it can really help to see
and understand the emotional and role structure of each of your co-parenting homes, and
all your related homes together.
Two flexible visual tools
can help partners see their complex stepfamily: genograms,
and structural maps. The Web pages on these tools aim to
spark your curiosity, thinking, creativity, discovery - and constructive stepfamily
discussions. These maps are meant to help you get to know and more effectively manage
your multi-home stepfamily - not to blame yourself or other members!
Try not to get hung up on
"Having to do these diagrams right" - e.g. exactly according to the
guidelines here. Catch the spirit of these illustrations and suggestions, and evolve your
stepfamilys own "right," by choosing symbols and mapping
conventions that really fit you and your unique people.
The basic aim here is to help you visually symbolize, clearly and
concisely, (a) what are your household and stepfamily structural strengths, and
what are aspects of your emotional structures that you want to improve, over time.