Lesson 7 of 7 - evolve a high-nurturance stepfamily


Worksheet: Clarify Your
Co-parents' Responsibilities

A resource for making effective
family "job descriptions"

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council


The Web address of this 2-page worksheet is http://sfhelp.org/sf/co/wks.htm

      Clicking underlined links here will open a new window. Other links will open  an informational popup, so please turn off your browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site. If your playback device doesn't support Javascript, the popups may not display. Follow underlined links after finishing this article to avoid getting lost.

      This is one of a series of Lesson-7 articles on how to evolve a high-nurturance stepfamily. The "/" in re/marriage and re/divorce notes that it may be a stepparent's first union. "Co-parents" means both biological parents, or any of the three or more stepparents and bioparents co-managing a multi-home nuclear stepfamily. .

      Get the most from this worksheet by first reading... 

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

  • self-improvement Lessons 1 thru 7 , parts 1 and 2

  • what typical stepfamily kids need

  • perspective on effective parenting and
     co-parent job descriptions;  and..

  • Q&A about stepparenting and stepkids

Why Do This Worksheet? 

      Typical minor stepkids have ~25 normal developmental needs, as well as several dozen family-adjustment needs that intact-biofamily kids don't have. Their family and social environments and adult-child relationships are significantly different too. So nurturing stepkids effectively is much more complex than in intact biofamilies.

       The odds of effective nurturance rise steeply if co-parents agree to define who is responsible for what with each minor child. The length of this worksheet implies the complexity of the shared co-parenting responsibilities in an average multi-home nuclear stepfamily.

How to Use This Worksheet

      Prepare: Read and discuss the resources above, and conform that your true Self is guiding your personality. If not, expect skewed result here, and work on self-improvement Lesson 1.

      Acknowledge that what responsibilities your co-parents accept and implement over time will determine whether or not you protect your fan of descendents from inheriting the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle.

      Print a set of these two pages for each of your stepfamily kids. Because each child is unique, your co-parents will have different goals for each one. Use colored markers to hilight key items.

      Adopt a long-range point of view - e.g. the next 15 or 20 years. Imagine clearly your focus child as an independent young adult, and picture how you want them to be.

      Find an undistracted place and allot at least 30" or more to reflect on these questions for each child. Fill out this worksheet alone to avoid skewing your answers - then discuss it with other family members. See this time as an investment in a priceless asset - co-creating successful young adults over many years..

      Take your time. If you feel overwhelmed, recall: Average stepfamily co-parents like us take four or more years to merge and stabilize our several biofamilies after cohabiting. Your co-parents are evolving a vital dynamic plan, not a black/white legal decree. Note that "no plan" is a plan!

      Consider journaling about your thoughts, emotions, and images as you fill out the worksheets, or soon afterward. The process of doing these sheets may be as valuable as the results...

      When all your co-parents have filled out copies for each child, then come together and compare and discuss your results as caregiving teammates, not competitors. You may not be buddies, and you're all aiming for the same child-care goals!

      Let your kids know what you're doing and why. Teach them the main results. Show these worksheets to relatives, teachers, and relevant family-support professionals. Typical non-steppeople greatly underestimate the scope and complexity of your co-parenting barriers, problems, and kids' needs.


      Use this worksheet as a resource for evolving effective co-parenting job descriptions for your stepfamily adults and supporters.

      Write co-parents' first names or initials over each column below: "BP" = bioparent, "SP" = stepparent, and "Other" = other key nurturers, like relatives, baby sitters, older siblings, coaches, or an au pair.

      Option - use "GP" to denote a key grandparent. Edit and change these worksheet items to fit the uniquenesses of your stepfamily situation. Make these pages work for you all!

      Review, discuss, and update these worksheets and related job descriptions regularly - specially in your stepfamily's early years.

+ + +

      Thoughts as I start this inventory... 


      Tasks in italics below are usually not needed, or are significantly different, in typical intact biofamilies.

arro-dwn.gif (73 bytes) Our Co-parenting Goals arro-dwn.gif (73 bytes)

Who should be responsible for
doing this with (child's name)

Names / Initials arro-rt1.gif (72 bytes)







General Co-parenting Basics

Learn what the [wounds + unawareness] cycle is and how we can break it


Learn specifically what factors promote a high-nurturance ("functional") family


Accept that we're all in a normal, unique, multi-home stepfamily.


Accept that (a) each of our kids' living bioparents, and (b) their present and future mates - are equal co-parents in our multi-home stepfamily.


Learn (a) what's normal in average stepfamilies, and (b) how they differ from typical intact biofamilies. 


Get clear on the specific traits of healthy, effective co-parents


Learn how stepparenting and traditional bioparenting differ


Learn (a) the unique adjustment needs of minor stepkids, and (b) how they apply to each of our kids 


Evolve and use a meaningful family mission statement together 


(a) Evolve, (b) negotiate, (c) use, and (d) update clear, compatible job descriptions for each of our co-parents and kids


Teach and model effective communication basics and skills 


Forge and implement a healthy family grieving policy


Design and supervise family vacations, celebrations, and outings 


Develop an effective way to identify and resolve major co-parenting conflicts 


Negotiate and implement a multi-home child-discipline policy 


Get qualified co-parenting help promptly when needed 


Keep key others informed of what we're all trying to do together 


Basic co-parenting responsibilities for this unique child: 

Steadily feel and show unconditional love 


Steadily feel and show conditional respect 


Listen: learn this child's fears, dreams, feelings, hopes, and needs 


Be a loyal  companion, friend, and  playmate 


Give merited praise and recognition often 


 Feel and show honest affection 


Give healthy touching, hugs, and  kisses 


Encourage and guide this child, rather than criticize and shame 


Protect this child from abuses, dangers, and neglect


Guard this child against re/divorce trauma 


Resolve conflicts between this child's co-parents and relatives


Names / initialsarro-rt1.gif (72 bytes) 







Who's responsible to consistently model
and teach this child healthy ...

Self love, self respect, and pride            
Self-nurturance values and skills (vs. self neglect            
Self-protection skills            
Personal honesty and accountability            
Personal hygiene values and habits             
Proper bathroom manners and behaviors             
Language / swearing name-calling / limits             
Verbal and written communication skills             
Effective problem-solving skills             
Managing shame and guilt effectively            
Anger, aggression, frustration, and impulse management             
Empathy, sensitivity, and tact            
 Nudity, modesty, and privacy standards             
 Safe driving skills, and vehicle care             
Proper ethical and moral judgment            
Respectful attitudes about race, creed,  gender, and ethnic differences            
Personal respect for Nature and the Earth             

Names / initialsarro-rt1.gif (72 bytes) 







Responsibilities for this child's schooling

 Assess this child's unique gifts and talents, and nurture them steadily


Pick the right school / daycare agency 


Choose and monitor effective, nurturing teachers 


Select the right school subjects 


Develop effective study, learning, and school attitudes


Set clear, appropriate school-performance expectations and standards


Help this child with homework and special projects


Request, attend, and follow up on school conferences


Set and enforce TV, phone, and computer limits


 Choose,  monitor, and  support this child's extra curricular activities


Attend this child's games / performances / ceremonies


 Monitor and  pay school / college expenses


Resolve any major problems with these            

Sleep / Rest

Decide where, when, and with whom this child sleeps


Choose, decorate, furnish this child's bedroom/s


Clean this child's bedroom/s, sheets, etc. 


See that this child gets enough sleep 


Get this child up on time for school / work 


Teach and  model balancing work, play, and rest 


Resolve any major rest-related problems


Names / initialsarro-rt1.gif (72 bytes) 







Health and Growth 

Supervise this child's  weight, diet, and  exercise


Get or  give first aid, when needed


Set and  enforce alcohol,  smoking, and  other drug limits


Provide timely, effective sex education, guidance, limits, and protections


Choose this child's health providers 


Arrange behavioral counseling / medical / dental / optical / appointments


Provide transport 


Monitor / evaluate / follow up on these visits 


Get / give / monitor any medications


Pay for this child's health-related expenses 


Provide and monitor health insurance


Resolve major problems on any of these 


Family and Other Relationships  

Help this child clearly define " who's in my stepfamily now?"


Help clarify this child's role responsibilities as a stepchild / stepsibling / stepgrandchild


Teach this child key stepfamily- biofamily differences and realities


Decide / act on stepparental adoption of this child 


Family names and titles: decide what this child will call each stepfamily member 


Resolve conflicts between stepsibs and/or step-relatives 


Resolve loyalty conflicts affecting this child


Resolve this child's stepparent/s' feeling "second best" too often 


Promote mutual respect with stepsibs and half-sibs (if any) 


Facilitate a healthy relationship between this child and their non-custodial bioparent


Facilitate healthy relationships between this child and their relatives 


Facilitate healthy relationships between this child and their step-kin


Inform this child's teacher/s, doctor/s, and minister "we are a multi-home stepfamily" 


Promptly resolve major disputes among this child's three or more co-parents


Arrange and provide transportation to / from friends' homes and social events


Choose, buy, and pay for this child's party supplies and presents


 Plan and oversee sleepovers and parties


Set and enforce this child's telephone limits


Make and enforce their "check in" rules 

Set and enforce their curfew limits             
Arrange, transport, and pay for their baby sitters, and resolve problems with them            
Choose, buy, and care for this child's pets            
Resolve major conflicts on any of these             

      Do you need a break? Notice what you're thinking and feeling. Then...

Continue with page 2 of this co-parenting-responsibilities worksheet...