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This is one of a series of lesson-7 articles
on how to evolve a high-nurturance stepfamily.
These articles augment other
professional help. 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
three or more related stepparents
and bioparents co-managing a multi-home nuclear stepfamily.
Man stepfamily commentators focus on how to avoid and resolve
stepfamily problems, rather than the potential benefits
of belonging to a healthy stepfamily.This article
explores common advantages and disadvantages of being in a
typical stepfamily, compared to normal intact and two-home
brief YouTube video sets the stage for what you're about
High-nurturance ("functional") families of any sort
consistently fill the primary needs of their members. Low-nurturance
families don't. Typical stepfamilies have more people,
roles, relationships, and developmental tasks than average
intact biofamilies, so it's harder to fill everyone's needs
well enough, often enough. Because prior divorce suggests
psychological wounding and unawareness in both mates,
stepfamily mates are apt to be significantly wounded.
Initially higher, vs. being
Apt to decay, due to
psychological wounds and many concurrent
More adults to help
More chances for complex
Minor kids' development
May be healthier than in a
May be hindered because of
many adjustment tasks and stresses
May be higher than if their
child is single
Probably lower, due to alien
stepfamily roles and compound stressors
Only-children can gain one or
more sisters or brothers
Loyalty conflicts and
competitions more likely,
Probably higher than a
More problems likely (e.g.
child support and values conflicts)
May be higher than single-parenting
because more relatives
May be less if relatives
conflict and/or disapprove
Try a "Benefit Hunt"
To make this subject more real and less abstract, consider doing some form
of this exercise the next time you gather with your (step)family members:
Pick a comfortable place with few distractions, and allot
enough time to do this experience;
Give a brief introduction as to what you're about to do
Offer some safety guidelines, like "you can observe and
say 'I pass' if you need to, without guilt;"
Illustrate some common stepfamily benefits like those
above; and then...
Invite each willing person to identify (a) one or more
benefits they feel your stepfamily provides them recently or long-term,
and (b) what former family environment they're comparing to. If useful,
help people get started by inviting them to complete sentences like...
What I appreciate about our stepfamily recently
This family feels better to me than (another family)
Something our stepfamily offers me that I never had
If we lost our stepfamily, I'd really miss..."
"When I'm old, I'll probably be glad that our
"Something my friends like about our stepfamily
"Compared to other families, we..."
Encourage comments and discussion, and when you feel
"done," encourage awareness and feedback by asking people to reflect and
comment on "What are you aware of now?"; or "How was this exercise for
you?"; or "What, if anything, did you just learn about us?
Consider doing a similar exercise in identifying your
stepfamily's strengths. Use this multi-part
worksheet as a guide or resource.
Which stepfamily benefits seem significant to each child and adult at a
given time will depend on a mix of factors like these:
stepfamily is on their developmental path.
Those early in their development are often beset by the most
problems which can
eclipse benefits like those above. A key developmental factor is how
each member is progressing at grieving their prior
losses (broken bonds);
aware and informed the
stepfamily's adults and key supporters are about
key topics. Less aware
and informed usually means more concurrent role and relationship
problems, and less odds of appreciating current and long-term benefits;
stepfamily mates chose the right
people to commit to, at
time, for the
reasons. Those who
did are more likely to experience and appreciate the great potential
benefits of co-creating a stepfamily;
co-parents are at overcoming their teamwork
This largely depends their combined motivation to help
each other progress on these
seven Lessons over time;
Each stepfamily will have a unique mix of factors like these which
determine if and how often they help each other affirm their benefits and
strengths. Which factors are most important in your stepfamily now?
Perspective: Millions of average U.S. stepfamilies eventually
divorce legally or psychologically. Their hopes, commitments, and set of benefits succumb to their mix
of core stressors. This hilights how
essential it is for courting co-parents to do
these Lessons together to
make three wise stepfamily-commitment choices.
The guidebook for this adventure isStepfamily Courtship (Xlibris Corp, 2002).
Adults and kids get benefits and stresses from belonging to
their unique family. Some benefits only become
apparent in middle or later life. ("I really loved our bi-annual
hayride reunions in Colorado!") Stepfamily complexity and stressors make
it specially important - and difficult - for co-parents and kids affirm
their unique benefits and strengths together while they're
mastering significant problems.
Hilights some common benefits for kids, co-parents, and
relatives living in a healthy stepfamily,
proposes a way you can identify
your stepfamily benefits
illustrates key factors that shape how often and how well
the adults and kids appreciate the good things they enjoy from stepfamily
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?
answering these questions - your wise resident