Promote client adults
using appropriate stepfamily role titles, and patiently
reduce any resistance to doing that.
Why? Even if client adults genuinely accept their stepfamily
identity and what it means, they may not use appropriate role titles
in private or public because of habit or wishing to appear socially
"normal" (i.e. as a biofamily.) That raises the odds people will
unconsciously use biofamily norms and expectations in stressful
situations, slow or block stepfamily bonding and merger progress,
and amplify family problems.
Explain and illustrate the concepts of
and role-names or
titles. Distinguish between first and last
and family role-titles as needed. Note that adults and kids negotiating
what names to call each other is part of
- merging biofamilies over time;
Option - if appropriate,
summarize the five common stepfamily
and motivate clients by hilighting how ignorance of realistic stepfamily
expectations (and not using appropriate stepfamily role-tiles) can promote significant
personal and systemic
common biofamily role-titles (Mom,
brother, uncle, grandma...), and ask clients what titles they usually
use with each other. Option - ask how these titles compare to
those client-adults and their parents and grandparents used as kids;
and note that (a) there are twice as many as in a typical biofamily, and
(b) members of merging biofamilies may use different titles (Dad, Daddy,
Pops, Papa), creating potential values conflicts;
Propose the value of using
appropriate stepfamily role-titles at home and in public - i.e.
maximize clarity and validation that "We are a normal multi-home stepfamily,"
and promote using realistic stepfamily role expectations (Lesson 7);
Ask if co-parents are encouraging
kids and other adults to use appropriate stepfamily role titles at home
and in public ("You know Nan, Jackie is your stepsister, not your
biological sister...") If they're not, assess why (often because members
don't want to acknowledge their stepfamily identity, and/or don't
understand the risk of using biofamily expectations), and encourage them
to seek respectful awareness and change;
Option - suggest and role-play
responses to family members who resist using appropriate stepfamily
role-titles. Use mutually-respect attitudes and the Priject-2
communication skills - when true Selves are guiding clients'
personalities. Encourage and practice empathic listening and
respectful assertion, vs. arguing, criticizing, and 1-up lecturing;
Option - describe and
role-play using the Serenity and Gestalt
with family members probably ruled by protective false-selves who need
to avoid accepting their stepfamily identity and role-titles;
Follow up in future sessions to
verify clients are using appropriate stepfamily role-titles. if not,
decide if and when to assess why, and whether to repeat selected
attending clients to teach other stepfamily members and supporters
what they're learning here.
Why? Again - family adults not
participating in this education risk unconsciously using biofamily
norms and expectations, and inadvertently causing significant stress in and
between their related homes.
If appropriate, review the
the [wounds + unawareness]
and it's effects;
the five common stepfamily
and their typical effects, and...
summarize (at least)
and 4, as appropriate.
Facilitate participating adults'
evolving a plan to approach each other family member - alone or in a
group - and explain what they've learned about accepting their
stepfamily identity and what it means to them all.
Coach participating family members on
how to respond to "resistance." Option - ask the clients to
identify the most "resistant" family adult or child, and role-play
responding to their opinions, using (a) a mutual-respect attitude, and
(b) the Lesson-2 communication skills.
useful question to ask is "(name), what would it mean to you if you
accepted that we're members of a normal stepfamily?", and then listen
empathically (vs. arguing or explaining "the truth.")
If appropriate, suggest that
resistance to accepting stepfamily norms and realities is caused by a
mix of ignorance and wounds (e.g. excessive shame, guilts, anxieties,
and reality distortions). Together, these can often be too
powerful to overcome without professional help.
Where this is so, provide a copy
of this article
to participating clients, and discuss how it might apply in their
major strategy is for the members who do accept their step-hood
to consistently refer to it ("plant seeds") in family conversations and
gatherings, and intentionally use appropriate role titles, even if some
other members are uncomfortable with them.