the authors don't know the
of what you
need to know, or
they focus on solving surface problems and
not the underlying
of the problems, and/or...
their chapters provide only superficial (or
no) coverage of the
key topics you need for effective solutions - e.g. wound assessment and
recovery + effective communication + and healthy grief + relationship
basics + stepfamily
If you have any stepfamily books nearby, check their table of contents and
index (if any) to see if this premise holds true.
you seek practical ways to stabilize or reduce a stepfamily
(e.g. potential breakup), I know
of no books that can
provide effective help - including mine. Typical stepfamily problems are
complex, multi-layered, and often have been evolving for months or years.
Expecting a book to provide instant cures is like expecting to find diamonds
in a sandbox. This is why
for couples to research stepfamily
Bottom line: Most
stepfamily, stepparenting, and remarriage books are useful for
describing and illustrating common relationship problems.
And most of them will
offer only superficial or impractical advice on fixing these problems because authors and readers don't
thoroughly explore these vital
Before you invest in any stepfamily book, article, or program, I
urge you to follow these...
If you seek stepfamily or stepparenting validation, examples, and some
clarification, most stepfamily books will prove useful. Buy several, for
author's backgrounds, experience, biases, and vocabularies vary
Since 1981, I have read over 40 books about stepfamilies and co-parenting. The best
overview books I know are:
Becoming a Stepfamily (Gestalt Institute of Cleveland Press, 1998)
Stepfamily Life (2004, Finch Publishing, Sydney, Australia) - an
update of her
Stepfamily Realities (Doubleday, 1992); and...
James' Bray and John Kelly's
Stepfamilies - Love, marriage, and parenting in the first decade
the above cautions in mind,
also see these other stepfamily resources for
alternative sources of help.
Though each of these books has much to recommend it, none of them identify
what readers need to know and do about these combined
I caution you to not take any book's front-cover claims or
book-endorser's quotes literally. Stepfamily roles and relationships are
complex enough that no one book can provide "all you need to know" or be "the
complete (or authoritative) guide to ____."
Premise: most book endorsers -
specially celebrities - do not know what typical readers need to
about stepfamily remarriage and co-parenting, and have their own agendas.
If You Seek
Solutions to Stepfamily
There are several ways to scan a book (or a stepfamily class or program) to see if its contents are superficial
Prepare by studying the articles in the box at the top of this article;
introduction to the [wounds + unawareness] cycle;
symptoms of significant psychological wounds (do you have any?);
of the five hazards your family members face;
example of the several levels of typical stepfamily problems;
resolving most role and
here (how to build a high-nurturance stepfamily). and...
table of contents of my book Stepfamily Courtship.
Together, these will give you enough perspective to judge whether buying
someone's book on stepfamily solutions is worth your time and money. You
author's credentials and experience. If s/he is not a veteran
therapist or counselor, it's very likely s/he will provide superficial
or impractical information and advice, no matter how many years of
stepfamily experience s/he has. My experience is that even authors with
Ph.D. or M.D. degrees don't know about these
and what to do about them.
If you're single
or courting and the book doesn't have at least a full
chapter on how to make wise stepfamily
elsewhere. If there are one or more chapters on courtship
decisions, see if the author/s provide a list of courtship
Know that the
book will provide only part of what you need if the Table of
Contents doesn't include at least a full chapter on:
surface needs from primary needs; and
spotting and resolving
typical stepkids' unique family-adjustment
co-parenting ex mates; and...
how to nourish your
amidst unavoidable stepfamily
and realities. Most authors hilight five or six myths out of over
the chapters above, assume that any chapters on
child support, discipline, visitations and
custody disputes, family
holidays are superficial and
anecdotal, not comprehensive and practical.
Religious emphasis: if the author/s seem to give primary weight to Biblical
laws and advice rather than to knowledge like the above, expect
the book's practical use to be limited. If this offends you, please read
this. By the way, did you know that
some Biblical scholars feel that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were a
stepfamily because of Joseph's older sons?
Another way to check a stepfamily or stepparenting book for quality is...
Scan the index,
if any, for entries like these:
bonds or bonding
grief (or mourning)
inclusion and/or exclusion
The more of
these topics in a book and the more pages per topic, the more likely the book is
practical. Books without an index are usually anecdotal and of less
value in preventing and resolving stepfamily problems.
Scan the content to see if the author/s include
bioparents (both living ex mates) of a minor or grown stepchild in their
definition of "your (nuclear) stepfamily." If they don't, look
Together, these criteria can help you choose stepfamily, stepparenting, and
remarriage how-to books and programs that are practical and useful.
and stepfamily co-parents and supporters need
validation, education, practical advice, and inspiration. Many authors and
publishers try to fill these needs with how-to books and articles.
Readers face a
bewildering array of new and used books on divorce-recovery, stepfamilies,
stepparenting, and remarriage to choose from -
and most people don't know how to evaluate the best books.
my 36 years'
of stepfamily research and clinical experience, this article proposes
typical readers need,
why most books in this genre seldom offer
information and advice, and....
specific recommendations on how to choose
useful publications and programs about stepfamilies.
Also see these related articles on evaluating stepfamily
advice, and picking an effective
Pause, breathe, and recall why you read this article. Did you get what
you needed? If so, what do you need now? If not - what
you need? Is there anyone you want to
discuss these ideas with? Who's
questions - your wise resident
page / Lesson 7 /