Lesson 7 of 7 - evolve a high-nurturance stepfamily

Q&A About Stepparenting

What You Need to Know

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council


The Web address of this article is https://sfhelp.org/sf/co/qa_sp.htm

Updated  07/11/2015

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      This YouTube video provides perspective on this Q&A article about stepparenting. The video mentions eight lessons in this self-improvement Web site - I've simplified that to seven.

      This is one of a series of lesson-7 articles on how to evolve a high-nurturance (functional) 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 three or more related stepparents and bioparents managing a multi-home nuclear stepfamily.  

      This article assumes you're familiar with....

  • the intro to this nonprofit Web site and the premises underlying it

  • self-improvement Lessons 1 thru 7  

  • typical stepkids' adjustment needs

  • perspective on effective parenting and family roles and rules.


      Stepparent describes the role of an adult who nurtures a resident or visiting child of their mate. Stepmothers and stepfathers may or may not have biological children of their own, and/or conceive "ours" children with their partner. Any family with at least one stepchild and one part-time or full-time stepparent is a stepfamily.

      Because stepfamilies following divorce (vs. mate-death) are relatively new to our culture, the roles of stepparent and stepchild are often alien, confusing, and frustrating. If new mates made wise courtship decisions, these relationships can become rich sources of closeness, affection, companionship, fun, satisfaction, and sometimes love.

      The questions and answers here come from 36 years' clinical research and listening to over 1000 typical new and veteran co-parents since 1981. My own experience as a stepfather and adult stepson adds perspective.

  Questions you should ask about stepparenting

1)  What does "step" mean?

2)  What should courting partners know about the unfamiliar roles of stepparent and stepchild? Follow the links.

3)  What's an effective stepparent?

4)  What do typical new stepparents need most?

5)  Are typical stepparents supposed to love their stepkids? Can they?

6)  What if a stepchild rejects a stepparent despite the adult's best efforts?

7)  How does stepparenting differ from bioparenting?

8)  What are common problems that typical stepparents face?

9)  What do typical stepparents need from their partners?

10)  Do average stepfathers face different problems than typical stepmothers?

11)  Do veteran bioparents make better stepparents?

12)  What are the (potential) rewards of stepparenting, and when do they occur?

13)  Is nurturing grown stepchildren easier than minor stepkids?

14)  What common mistakes should typical new stepparents avoid?

15)  Do typical stepmothers need special support compared to other co-parents?

16)  Is there a best way for stepparents to handle (inevitable) values and loyalty conflicts?

17)  Is stepparenting easier if a stepchild's "other bioparent" is dead?

18)  Does it get significantly easier for average stepparents when their youngest stepchild lives on their own?

19)  What legal rights do average non-adoptive stepparents have relative to their minor stepchildren?

20)  Typically, is re/marriage to a stepparent "harder" than to a bioparent?

21)  Is it common for divorcing stepparents to continue their relationships with stepkids?

22)  Are there any specially good resources for stepparents?

23)  How can I communication better with the minor kids in my life?

If you don't see your question here, please ask!


Q1)  What does "step" mean? 

      The American College Dictionary (1970) says the prefix "step" comes from the old English steop-, which meant "related by marriage rather than blood." A related root is the Icelandic stjup-, denoting bereaved or orphaned. Microsoft's Bookshelf describes a current secondary meaning of stepchild as "Something that does not receive appropriate care, respect, or attention."

      Many stepfamily authors and commentators try to avoid the negative taint of "step-" with labels and adjectives like co-family, blended, second, bi-nuclear, reconstituted, combined, bonus, rem(arried), and reconstructed (family). Terms like these encourage people to ignore their "step-" identity, and live from unrealistic (biofamily) expectations.


Q4)  What do typical new stepparents need most?

      Because our culture doesn't alert typical new-stepfamily adults to the stresses they'll face, typical stepmoms and stepdads don't know what they need to know about stepfamily challenges and rewards. So all stepfamily adults and supporters need to study (at least) Lesson 7 in this Web site. It's based on 36 years' research and clinical experience with over 1,000 typical stepfamily adults.


Q5)  Are typical stepparents supposed to love their stepkids? Can they?

      An inexorable reality is that mutual respect and friendship may develop between a stepparent and stepchild, but not the same kind of bonding and love that healthy bioparents and kids exchange. Exceptions may happen if a new stepchild is very young. Some stepparents endure their stressful caregiving role to be with their beloved partner. Others really like their mate's child/ren and enjoy nurturing them.

      Many stepkids don't want a stepparent - in general, or the one their bioparent chose. Even if children enjoy a stepdad or stepmom, they may feel guilty and disloyal to their same-gender bioparent if they express their appreciation and respect openly. Well-informed supporters counsel stepparents and stepkids to not expect themselves to love each other or feel guilty if they don't. See this for more perspective.


Q6)  What if a stepchild rejects a stepparent despite the adult's best efforts?

      In some new stepfamilies, a well-meaning stepmom or stepdad extends friendship, patience, and empathy to their stepkids, and gets steady indifference, disrespect, and/or hostility ("rejection"), and possibly criticism from their mate if the stepparent protests. Such "rejection" may indicate that the stepchild...

is testing appropriately for possible parental abandonment and loss of family status; and/or s/he...

hasn't finished grieving many profound losses from parental divorce or death and re/marriage - and maybe from a low-nurturance childhood; and/or the stepchild may feel...

trapped in a low-nurturance (step)family, and/or overwhelmed by many concurrent needs (discomforts) and/or by...

stressful loyalty conflicts and associated relationship triangles with other stepfamily members.

      Typical stepkids don't understand these stressors, and can't clearly identify and assert their primary needs. They depend on their co-parents to validate their feelings and needs, and want to empathically help satisfy them.

      And "rejected" stepparents need to know that...

their feelings of hurt, confusion, and resentment of the child's behavior and their mate's reactions are normal, legitimate, and deserve no guilt, shame, or self doubt - despite what uninformed people may say; and...

their mate has to choose, repeatedly, who's needs and feelings are more important: their own, their mate's or their biochild's. The bioparent's actions (vs. words) will demonstrate their true priorities; and...

a stepparent and their stepchild may simply have "bad chemistry" - i.e. significantly different values, interests, and tolerances. If true for you...

  • put your true Self in charge of your other subselves,

  • accept your stepfamily identity and what it means,

  • help each other grieve your broken bonds and lost dreams,

  • use these timeless wisdoms for guidance,

  • patiently help each other progress at these Lessons, and...

  • enjoy the benefits of your re/marriage and dynamic stepfamily.

      If the rejected stepparent doesn't feel...

  • genuinely heard and...

  • spontaneously (vs. dutifully) supported by his or her mate, or...

  • their mate won't discuss the points above as a partner vs. an adversary, then...

the couple has a re/marital problem, not a "stepchild-rejection problem."


)  What are common problems that typical stepparents face?

      Though every stepfamily is unique, typical stepmothers and stepfathers face common concurrent problems (discomforts) like these, starting in courtship:

  • grieving unrealistic courtship ideals and fantasies, and accepting complex, stressful stepfamily realities, role complexities (Q7 above), and many concurrent adjustment tasks;

  • possible indifference, hostility, disrespect, and/or dislike from their stepkids and/or step-relatives - specially their partner's ex mate/s;

  • experiencing escalating hurts and resentments because their mate puts their stepkids' (and/or ex mate's) needs ahead of their primary relationship too often, despite the stepparent's hints, protests, and requests;

  • coming to dread stepkids' visitations for many reasons, and feeling guilty about this and helpless to improve it;

  • finding that most lay people and many family-support professionals have little awareness or empathy for what stepparents experience and need. One result is that many stepparents feel isolated and alone in resolving their role discomforts - specially if they have no biokids of their own, so their mate can't empathize. (Solution: find or start a support group!);

      And typical stepparents also face challenges like...

  • Identifying,  ranking, and resolving many more concurrent role, relationship, and daily-life problems  (unmet needs) than they expected during courtship;

  • changing unrealistic (biofamily-based) expectations about stepfamily life into realistic expectations over four or more years, while their mates and supporters may or may not do the same;

  • coping with personal, role, and stepfamily confusion at holidays (like Mother's and Father's Days) and family celebrations, starting with their wedding;

  • finding that most how-to books and programs about stepparenting offer vignettes (validation) and generalities (like "communicate openly and honestly"), but not real solutions (e.g. learn and apply seven communication skills, and patiently teach them to your kids);

  • discovering major values conflicts with their partner over child visitations + discipline + finances (including insurance, investments, debts, and wills) + custody + education + health + legal parenting agreements + relations with ex mates and in-laws + religion + boundaries + home selection and management.

      A typical stepfather or stepmother will face some mix of these problems. The ultimate problem for millions of U.S. stepparents is admitting some months or years after committing that they chose the wrong people, for the wrong reasons, at the wrong time. (Protection: work at these self-improvement Lessons together during courtship!) 


Q9)  What do typical stepparents need from their partners?

      Typical stepparents need their mate to want to...

  • fill their marital needs, and...

  • assess for and reduce any psychological wounds; and...

  • learn to practice win-win problem-solving; and...

  • accept their stepfamily identity and what that identity means; and...

  • learn the differences between stepparenting and bioparenting, including the differences between stepfamily and biofamily child-discipline; and...

  • learn the special adjustment tasks that typical stepkids have, and help to fill them;

  • grieve losses from prior divorce or mate-death and remarriage, and help their kids grieve their losses;

  • work patiently to reduce any barriers to effective co-parenting between themselves and with ex mates and relatives;

  • honestly evaluate and discuss the pros and cons of stepchild adoption and/or conceiving an "ours" child';

  • put their relationship consistently second (after wholistic health and integrity) except in emergencies; and...

  • learn how to evolve a stable, high-nurturance stepfamily as teammates.

      If you're a veteran stepparent, edit this summary to fit your current situation. Are there other things you need from your partner? Pause and notice your thoughts and feelings now...


Q10)  Do average stepfathers face different problems than typical stepmothers?

      Typical stepparents face general role and relationship problems,  and some that are gender-unique. For instance...

Statistics suggest that divorced or widowed American men are more likely to re/marry quickly than previously-married women. This implies stepfathers may be more at risk of making need-driven, uninformed (unwise) commitment decisions than typical stepmoms.

      Conversely, divorced or widowed single mothers are more likely to need caregiving, financial, and home-maintenance help, and make need-driven unwise commitment choices - specially if they bear significant psychological wounds; and...

Typical step-brides may experience greater conflict, anxiety, and/or satisfaction over their commitment ceremony than average step-grooms;

Traditionally, husbands are breadwinners, and wives are responsible for raising kids and household management. That often means that if a custodial stepchild or stepsiblings are unhappy or conflicted, society and a stepmother's mate, relatives, and friends expect her to take responsibility for reducing the trouble. 

      Without self-awareness, stepfamily knowledge, and effective marital communication, stepmoms who aren't clear on their caregiving responsibilities and what their stepkid/s need can feel over-responsible, confused, guilty, shamed, misunderstood, anxious, and alone.

      This may be amplified because typical female brains are more concerned with relationship problems and family harmony than male brains; and...

Males are generally more reluctant to seek and accept relationship help (e.g. self-help books, counseling, support groups) than females. So there are significantly more books and websites for stepmothers than stepfathers now. That may mean that average stepdads bear more stepfamily stress alone than stepmoms;

Typical males are often more sexually aggressive than females, and the incest taboo is usually weaker in stepfamilies; so average stepdads may struggle more with sexual feelings for their stepdaughters more than stepmoms do with stepsons;

      More possible differences between average stepfathers and stepmothers...

Typical stepmoms may have higher needs for empathy, intimacy (vs. sex), and emotional expression than stepfathers. That may yield higher odds of frustration in women choosing or accepting a stepmother role; and...

Typical women have deeper needs to conceive and nurture children than men. Typical stepmoms take on their role in their 30s or 40s. This urge + their age + local stepfamily conditions can cause a higher level of conception-related conflicts in stepmothers. This is specially likely with childless stepmothers whose mate doesn't want more children. 

A child's stepmother and biomother and/or co-grandmothers may be more likely to judge, criticize, and resent each other as caregivers than typical stepfathers and biofathers; and....

Because most females are more emotionally sensitive, responsive, and expressive than males, typical stepmothers may grieve more completely than stepfathers, and be more likely to recognize blocked grief in their  step and biochildren;

Average stepmothers may be (a) more needy of approval from, and closeness with, their stepchild/ren; and (b) more sensitive to stepchild rejection than stepfathers; and...

Average males tend to rely more on logic to "figure out" and "explain" family-relationship problems than females. So stepfathers may be more easily frustrated than stepmothers if stepfamily members or supporters "aren't logical." This can also be true for stepmoms with "male brains."

Because divorcing biomothers usually get physical custody of their minor kids, stepfathers are more likely to have resident stepchildren than stepmothers. This can make it easier to build adult-child relationships (and discover dislikes) than for part-time stepmoms.

Research suggests that the odds for significant strife between typical stepmothers and stepdaughters (specially residential and visiting teens) is higher than for average stepsons and stepdads.  Finally..

Stepfathers may be less empathic with, or sensitive or reactive to, marital dissatisfaction than average stepmothers.

      Reflect... can you think of other stepfamily stressors that are gender-specific?


Q11)  Do veteran bioparents make better stepparents?

      Intuitively, childless stepparents are more likely to have caregiving confusions and unrealistic expectations of themselves and other stepfamily members than veteran bioparents. This is specially likely for previously-unmarried stepparents, who must learn two complex social roles concurrently: spouse and child-nurturer.

      Let's define an effective (vs. 'better') co-parent as...

"An adult  who is (a) motivated and (b) able to (c) learn individual children's current developmental and family-adjustment needs and (d) work patiently and respectfully to help kids fill them, while (e) consistently satisfying their own needs well enough."

From this, I believe average veteran bioparents are more likely to be effective stepparents, short and long term. There are lots of exceptions - mature, wise stepparents gifted with natural nurturing instincts, skills, and priorities.

      What's your opinion on this question? Why is the answer important to you?


Q12)  What are the (potential) rewards of stepparenting, and when do they occur? 

      Stepparent is a family role which is either chosen ("I want to help raise your kids"), or endured to get something of value. The "rewards" of doing any social role well (by your standards) range from local to long-term. A "reward" is something that makes you feel good about yourself and/or someone else.  

      Typical short-term rewards of being an effective stepparent can include...

feeling liked, trusted, and respected by a stepchild,

enjoying the child's personality, company, and progress;

sensing that they and other people value your presence, opinion, and guidance, and...

feeling the satisfaction of helping the child fill current and long-term needs, and the respect and appreciation of your mate and important others.

      Typical long-term stepparenting rewards take decades to harvest - e.g. sacrificing and patiently contributing over years to help your stepchild become a serene, self-sufficient, self-actualized person who (potentially) co-creates a high-nurturance (functional) family of their own and contributes to society rather than depleting it.

      Option: ask the nearest stepmother or stepfather (or stepchild) what they like and enjoy about their role, being in a stepfamily, and whether they feel the rewards are worth the problems. Note that their expectations, goals, experiences, and opinions may be notably different than yours.


Q13)  Is nurturing grown stepchildren is easier than minor stepkids?

      People may assume that stepparent relations with adult stepchildren are less conflictual and more enjoyable than with typical minor stepkids. If co-parents re/marry too soon, and/or are psychologically wounded and join or found a low-nurturance stepfamily, that's often not true.

      Stepparents are likely to conflict with adult stepkids who...

grew up in a low-nurturance (traumatic) childhood, and have significant psychological wounds; and/or who...

can't communicate effectively, and/or who...

reject or minimize their stepfamily identity or don't know what it means, and/or who...

haven't grieved their losses from parental death or divorce, and re/marriage well enough;

And/or stepparents will conflict with adult stepkids who...

don't like, trust, or respect their stepparent/s or step-relatives; and/or who don't spontaneously want to belong a stepfamily despite their bioparent's wishes and happiness; and/or adult stepkids who are...

in an unsatisfying or over-stressful re/marriage or family now; and/or who...

are actively addicted; and/or who...

are codependent on, feel responsible for, or are enmeshed with a bitter, angry, or antagonistic (i.e. wounded) other bioparent; and/or adult stepchildren who...

are overwhelmed by a mix of these stressors and have no clear life purpose yet.

      These problems are likely to cause significant conflict in and with a stepparent if all their stepfamily adults aren't progressing with these 7 vital Lessons.

Options: whether you're courting or committed, gain perspective on an adult (or any) stepchild with this checklist. Also review these comments on assuming stepfamily conflicts will subside when the youngest stepchild lives independently.

      Pause and reflect on what the above means to you now, and whether you need to act on something...


Q14)  What common mistakes should typical new stepparents avoid?

      Let's define a "stepparent mistake" as some attitude, behavior, or decision which results in significant stress in or among any family adults or children. What's "significant" is a subjective judgment. From this framework, common mistakes that typical new stepparents should be alert for include...

Avoiding honest assessment for significant psychological wounds in themselves, and each co-parent, stepchild, and key relative. This assessment is best done during courtship.

Ignoring or minimizing their stepfamily identity and what it means;

Not wanting to put significant effort into these self-improvement Lessons during courtship to raise the odds of choosing the right people to re/wed, at the right time, for the right reasons; and/or....

Not thoroughly reviewing these common myths and realities with their mate and other family adults and supporters;

       And stepparents err by...

Not asking for informed human support along the way; and/or...

Not wanting to evolve effective strategies with their partner to avoid or reduce values and loyalty conflicts and relationship triangles; and/or by...

Being too quick to...

  • use legal force to resolve disputes with ex mate/s, and/or to...

  • minimize how long it takes to heal the distrust, disrespect, hurt, and resentments that always result from legal suits;

        And/or stepparents can come to regret assuming that...

their stepfamily is basically no different than a traditional intact biofamily;

these five hazards won't apply personally, or assuming that love and/or spiritual faith alone will surely overcome the hazards;

they and their stepkids must or will genuinely love, trust, and respect each other immediately or eventually;

decades of life experience, and prior marital and child-care experience, will be enough to evolve a successful stepfamily;

      And stepparents make a significant mistake if they assume that...

the children's "other bioparents" are not full members of their new stepfamily, or pretending to include them;

that any major conflict with stepfamily roles, rules, or relationships is someone else's fault, vs. half the stepparent's doing; and/or assuming that...

the stepparent has no options (is a victim), and/or that...

any local "stepfamily problem" is the primary problem, instead of a symptom of several primary problems (unmet needs; or assuming that..

average stepkids need pretty much the same thing as intact-family biokids, and/or that adult stepkids will "be no problem";

            And stepparents can mistakenly assume that...

principles of effective biofamily child-discipline will be effective in their new stepfamily; and...

that any licensed, experienced counselor, therapist, clergyperson, or mediator will know all they need to know about stepfamily realities; and...

that it's OK for their mate to feel "In (step)family conflicts, my kids will come first." Resentment over feeling second best  is the most widely quoted surface reason for eventual re/divorce; and/or if they assume...

most people will empathize, validate, and sympathize with) the confusions, doubts, and stresses involved in custodial or non-custodial stepparenting.

How many typical stepfamily adults do you think could name and explain even half of these stepparent mistakes? Pause and notice what you're thinking now...


Q15)  Do typical stepmothers need special support compared to stepdads and other co-parents?

      There are more self-help books and Internet chat groups for stepmothers than stepfathers. I'm not aware of any such resources for stepparents' mates. That suggests that authors, publishers, and website developers think stepmoms need the most support, or there really are more calls for information and support from stepmoms.

      If so, that may simply mean average American stepmoms are more vocal about venting and seeking help than stepfamily men or stepfather's wives. For more perspective, review Q10.


Q16)  Is there a best way for stepparents to handle (inevitable) values and loyalty conflicts?

      Yes. Work patiently at these 7 Lessons with your mate and other family adults, and discuss and apply these options.


Q17)  Is stepparenting easier if a stepchild's "other bioparent" is dead?

      Yes and no. While there is no living ex mate to cause disputes, these five re/marital hazards still apply. The number and frequency of family conflicts may be less in post-death stepfamilies, but they still can promote significant stress and possible psychological or legal re/divorce.

      Some stressors are actually greater - e.g. re/marrying mates and relatives mistakenly assuming stepfamily realities don't apply to them because there is no living ex mate ["No, we're just a regular (non-step) family."]

      Another unique stressor is that stepparents may feel they're competing with a ghost or dead hero/ine in their new caregiving and spousal roles. They also lack the co-parenting support that a healthy ex-mate can provide.

      A potential indirect stress for stepfamily adults occurs if they start to explore biofamily nurturance levels and recovery from psychological wounds. The dead father or mother is not available to...

  • describe kids' early years and ancestral bequests of psychological wounds, or to...

  • confront and forgive for unintended early parenting neglects and abuses.

These deficits can make kids' true recovery from their wounds and losses slower and harder.

      Bottom line: stepparents and their supporters should not assume their stepfamily merger will be substantially easier because their stepkids' "other parent" is dead.


Q18)  Does it get easier for stepparents when their youngest stepchild lives on their own?

      The normal stresses over child custody, visitation, discipline, education, and support do dwindle when the youngest stepchild starts living on their own. So co-parents and supporters can assume that the frequency, complexity, and intensity of stepfamily conflicts will drop significantly.

      If all co-parents have made substantial progress on these self-improvement Lessons, that assumption is probably justified - despite new values, loyalty, and relationship- triangle stressors that will keep occurring.

      Typical courting and veteran co-parents can't describe their five hazards or  how to evolve a high-nurturance stepfamily. This increases the risk that when the youngest stepchild moves out, some primary co-parent stressors will remain.

      A myth that many older step-couples believe is that because their stepkids are adults, their stepfamily love-boat will have smooth sailing. This assumption can cause shock, disorientation, heartache, anxiety, and major regret at "not having seen the need to prepare" - i.e. to study and discuss these Lessons. See Q13 for more perspective.


Q19)  What legal rights do average stepparents have relative to their minor stepkids?

      Family-law statutes vary by state. The general truth is "typical U.S. stepparents have few to no legal parental rights (and responsibilities) re their stepkids unless they legally adopt them." Most stepparents don't adopt their mate's children.

      This lack of legal status and rights may be a problem when medical professionals need parental approval to help an injured stepchild, and stepparents don't legally qualify. If this is true in your state, an option is to have a family-law attorney draw up a notarized "In Loco Parentis" document.

      One or both bioparents use this document to formally authorize a stepparent to act on their behalf with a named minor stepchild. For the best results, ask any attorney you hire if s/he specializes in family law. Local (state) Bar Associations can usually identify such specialists.

      Another potential stressor occurs if a stepparent dies without a will. In most states, her or his net assets may flow to the surviving mate and/or blood relatives, but not to their stepkids if both mates die together.

      Conflict may occur if a concerned stepmom or dad requests access to their  stepchild's school records, and/or to be notified of parent-teacher conferences. School districts and states vary in their policies about complying with such requests, specially when a hostile ex mate forbids it. Ask your local school administration what their policy is and what options stepparents have.

      Finally, a non-adoptive stepparent may or may not share legal adult liability if a stepchild commits a crime. Check with your local authorities.

      Bottom line: all your co-parents should get qualified family-law counsel on local stepparent's legal rights and responsibilities relative to their minor and grown stepkids. This is usually best done during courtship to help mates make three right choices.

      Option - adapt these guidelines for choosing a professional stepfamily counselor to help pick a competent attorney.


Q20)  Is re/marriage to a stepparent usually "harder" than to a bioparent?

      Single parents choose one of six types of new  partners:

  • childless adults who have never married or are divorcing or widowed; or...

  • divorcing and/or widowed bioparents with (a) no stepfamily experience or (b) significant stepfamily experience as a child and/or an adult.

      Generally, chances for significant re/marital stress are lower with new partners who have prior marital and parenting experience. Learning to "do" the complex roles of spouse and co-parent at the same time and stay balanced is a steep challenge, even for mature people guided by their true Selves (capital "S").

      Caution: prior divorce suggests psychological wounds and undeveloped communication and relationship skills. This can significantly offset the re/marital value of a new mate's life experience and knowledge.

      Another offset is that committing to someone with one or more living kids will generate substantial conflicts over values, priorities, loyalties, and relationship triangles (and perhaps rewards!) Two dual-role (bioparent + stepparent) mates have a better chance for mutual empathy, compassion, and support than couples where one mate doesn't take on the role of stepparent.

      Include these important courtship questions as you partners research making three wise stepfamily-courtship commitment choices.


Q21)  Do typical divorcing stepparents continue their relationships with stepkids?

      Millions of current American stepfamilies will end in psychological or legal re/divorce. Most divorcing biokids and bioparents want to, or feel they should, stay "connected" after bioparents separate. That's often less true with average stepparents and stepkids.

      Many factors determine if and how well stepfamily mates continue contact after they separate. In general, the higher their stepfamily's nurturance level  and the longer they've been together, the high the odds a stepchild and/or a stepparent will have bonded to some degree and will want ongoing contact after re/divorce.

      Re/divorcing stepparents and their stepkids are most likely to grow personal peace if they listen to their own hearts, rather than obey well-meant shoulds, musts, and oughts about staying in contact. Such advice is probably (a) someone else's agenda (b) based on biofamily and religious traditions, not stepfamily realities.

      Most stepkids don't choose their stepfamily roles and relationships, and may not like, trust, respect, or bond with step-relatives despite ideals and sharing years of stepfamily experience. It's also uncommon for typical stepparents and stepkids to love each other like healthy bioparents and kids do. (see Q5)

      Also, many stepparents and stepchildren are wounded and unaware of key stepfamily realities, so their roles and relationship are often conflictual. Where so, there is little incentive to remain in touch after co-parents split up, and relationships decay naturally. There are exceptions! 


Q22)  Are there any specially good resources for stepparents?

      I've researched U.S. stepfamily life as a professional specialty since 1979. From my unusual (engineering + business + trainer + therapist) background and (stepfather + communication + inner-wound-recovery) experience, I've grown a strong bias about (a) what typical stepparents need, and (b) what resources fill their needs effectively .

      I feel that the range of print, electronic, and consultation resources available today to average co-parents can fill some surface needs, but not their primary needs (Q4).

      Lesson 7 in this nonprofit Web site exists because almost all of the scores of books and articles for stepfamily adults I've read since 1979 are superficial and sometimes misleading. None of them provide the scope of information you'll find in these 7 online Lessons.

      See the resources offered by the National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC). Also see these articles on evaluating stepfamily advice, choosing effective stepfamily counselors, and choosing useful stepfamily materials.


If you haven't recently, recently, review these Q&A items about stepkids, and about parenting kids of parental divorce and re/marriage.  Otherwise, keep studying Lesson 7!

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