parenting seeks to nurture young people toward wholistically-healthy
independence, and to maintain a high-nurturance environment to minimize
This can be hard for typical stepparents to achieve for many reasons
Most U.S. stepfamilies form after the divorce of one or both new mates.
Divorce usually occurs because mates are psychologically wounded and
don't know how to communicate and grieve effectively. Wounded people
usually choose each other - repeatedly. This is one reason making
is so vital!
Many kids of divorce had too little early-childhood nurturance from
unaware caregivers. So
typical stepparents are faced with wounded
partners, ex-mates, stepkids, and relatives, which makes effective co-parenting
teamwork hard or impossible.
The caregiving goals of healthy bioparents and
stepparents are the same. However, typical stepfamilies differ
structurally and dynamically from intact biofamilies in up to 30
ways - and the domestic, family, and social environments around stepparents
differ in up to 40 ways from traditional
supporters are aware of
these many differences - which is uncommon - typical adults and kids will
experience major confusion, doubt, conflict, frustration, and hurt, as
stepparents try to learn and "do" their alien family role "well enough."
This is specially true if they have no prior parenting experience.
There is less informed social and media support available for typical
stepparents than for bioparents. This means typical stepmoms and stepdads
can feel isolated, confused, and discouraged - specially if (a) they
have unrealistic role expectations, and
(b) their mate and other family adults reject or ignore their
and what it
Even if they were raised in a stepfamily, typical bioparents without
have a hard time empathizing with what it feels
like to be a stepparent - specially if their new partner has little or no prior
line - the role of stepparent is complex and challenging for
many reasons. To be effective at this role over some years with kids of
any age, men and women need special traits. What are they?
Based on my
clinical research since 1979, the following checklist identifies the
what average men and women need in order to be effective stepparents. These are
in addition to the general traits
of effective parents.
Option - use this a worksheet
to rate a stepparent. Don't
check a trait below ( __ ) unless you can check all the subtraits ( _ ).
S/He _ has
for psychological wounds, and _ is working steadily to
to lead and
any wounds (Lesson 1).
S/He _ understands the toxic [wounds + unawareness]
and _ actively encourages other family adults to
the next generation against inheriting these stressors.
__ 3) In times of confusion and
conflict, this stepparent puts personal
first, his/her primary relationship second, and all else third, unless
there's an emergency.
__ 4) S/He thoroughly
before s/he committed to her/his stepparenting responsibilities;
__ 5) S/He can describe _ the
new-stepfamily members must merge and stabilize, and _ most of these
typical merger tasks.
__ 6) S/He...
fully accepted our
as a stepfamily, and...
intentionally learning what being in a stepfamily
intentionally forming realistic
expectations about stepfamily roles, relationships, and tasks;
steadily encouraging other family adults and supporters to (a)
accept our stepfamily identity and to (b) study and discuss