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If you're in
a stepfamily, please help improve lesson 7
by taking this brief anonymous
brief YouTube video previews most of what you'll read in this article:
This is one of a series of lesson-7 articles
on how to evolve a
stepfamily. The "/" in re/marriage and re/divorce
notes that it may be a stepparent's first union. "Co-parents" means both
bioparents, or any of the
related stepparents and bioparents co-managing a multi-home
Note - a "blended" or complex stepfamily is one where each mate has
one or more living or dead children from prior unions. In a "simple"
stepfamily, only one mate has prior kids.
This article assumes you're familiar with these:
to this nonprofit Web site, and the
premises underlying it
A WIDESPREAD HAZARD that promotes unwise re/marital choices and
eventual re/divorce is...
minimizing or ignoring your
("We are not a stepfamily"); and/or...
and accepting what that identity means.
This puts members at risk of assuming
that stepfamilies and intact biofamilies are "pretty much the same." Paradoxically, that's
in some ways, and not true in over 60
This hazard promotes stepfamily adults' using up to 60
unrealistic (biofamily-based) expectations as they
biofamilies and forge
complex new family
rules, relationships, and rituals. Unrealistic
expectations cause and compound many other stepfamily
problems. The antidote is stepfamily education and
(online Lesson 7).
summarizes key things that
membership in a typical
stepfamily means to the
adults and kids who comprise its
several generations. See how many of these
you already knew...
Belonging to a typical stepfamily usually means that...
Your co-parents, kids, and relatives can satisfy
cause people to live in families, and you all can gain the special advantages that
average stepfamilies provide ifall your adults...
that their odds of
psychological or legal re/divorce are significant for
your adults all commit to
helping each other study and apply these
- ideally starting when co-parents court.
2) These stepfamilyfacts apply to all their members, supporters and
3) One or more
of their family adults probably survived early-childhood neglect, abuse,
and/or abandonment (trauma), and is
up to six major psychological
wounds. Until identified, accepted, and
these wounds will combine to...
stress all family relationships,
eventually impair co-parents'
psychological wounds ...
pass on to their kids
despite the co-parents' best efforts.
in this Web site provides prevention,
assessment, and healing-options for, these toxic psychological wounds.
belonging to a stepfamily usually means
4) Both stepkids’ bioparents, and any
new mates of theirs are
full members of the
whether they’re active parents or not, or dead. If
re/married mates discount or
ignore ex mates' dignity, values, needs, and opinions, they risk
complex webs of stressful family-
membership, values, and
triangles as long as the
ex mate/s and youngest stepchild live.
stepfamily identity ("We are a normal stepfamily") also means…
5) Each minor stepchildneeds informed help
from all their adults to fill their unique mix of over 60 concurrent
and family-adjustment needs. To nurture
(fill needs) effectively, stepparents, bioparents, and family
supporters need to...
want to proactively reduce any
to building an effective
co-parenting team, and...
child's status with all these needs, and negotiate...
which adults are responsible
for helping each child fill their mix of needs
And being in a
multi-home stepfamily also means that...
6) Typical co-parents and their kids and kin will never encounter a
stepfamily composed like theirs, because there are over
100 types of
nuclear stepfamily. This often promotes feeling alien, strange, and alone, which
can increase normal new-stepfamily anxieties and discomfort; and...
7) Adults and kids will need to intentionally convert up to 60
common stepfamily misconceptions into realities; and
they merge their several biofamilies over some years, typical stepfamily
adults and supporters also need to
learn, accept, and adapt to...
~40 environmental differences between
traditional bioparenting and stepparenting,
~20 environmental differences between
child discipline and typical stepfamily
child discipline; while they...
help each other mesh their communication
styles and develop effective communication
stepfamily identity and membership typically
must learn and master
~30 family-merger tasks and learn to negotiate and
merger-conflicts effectively for many
years - i.e. they need to help each other progress on online
accepting your stepfamily identity
also means that...
10) All adults
and kids need informed support to grievesets of special losses (broken bonds) from prior divorce, relocation/s, and/or death + single-parent family
dissolution + re/marriage + stepfamily co-habiting. Often,
psychologically-wounded adults and kids lack inner and social
permissions to grieve well, so typical
co-parents need to study, discuss, and apply
co-parenting mates will need to consciously...
nourish their relationship,
merge their biofamilies
and build a co-parenting team,
find qualified help to manage all these complex sub-tasks
Stepfamily membership usually means
when mates seek help, they can't find anyinformed classes (like Lesson 7),
counselors, media programs
(like this Web site),
support groups - so they often feel on their own.
Or if they don't know how to evaluate
stepfamily help. they may rely on well-meant, uninformed or even harmful
Adults and kids will discover that non-stepfamily people - including
many human-service professionals - can't empathize with the
web of simultaneous
typical stepfamily members experience. That can foster feeling isolated,
alone, and discouraged.
Finally, your stepfamily identity means...
need to stay balanced enough and
working patiently at all these concurrent family-building tasks and goals
psychological wounds, manage careers, friendships and socializing, assets and debts, maintain their home/s and appliances,
adapt to unexpected changes
and opportunities, grow personally and spirituality, and
play, relax, and
rest often enough.
Together, these 13
meanings imply that if courting partners choose to form or join a
stepfamily hoping for long-term happiness, they'll need...
a sense of humor + a willingness to learn, prioritize, and
change + a clear vision of
what they hope to build together
over many years.
Pause and notice your
thoughts and feelings. How many of these
13 stepfamily meanings could you name before reading
this? Do all these things seem do-able over many years, or overwhelming and
impossible? Can you better appreciate why many stepfamily unions fail psychologically or legally?
stepfamily tasks are daunting, complex, and most of them overlap. So are the requirements to graduate a four-year
college or trade apprenticeship, yet millions of average people
succeed at those. They have motivation, goals, a long-term plan, patience, and help along the way.
Stepfamily adults who are motivated to study, discuss, and apply these
Lessons can succeed long-term,
and protect their
descendents from the epidemic lethal [wounds + unawareness]
This article exists because many stepfamily adults and supporters don't know
what it means to belong to a typical stepfamily. From
full-time stepfamily research and clinical experience since 1979, I propose
13 specific meanings that average step-adults and their supporter need to
learn and accept -
ideally starting in courtship. So...