True/False Blended Family Quiz

  1. (T) Approximately I in 5 children in the United States is being raised in a stepfamily.
  2. (T) More than 85% of divorced mothers will eventually remarry.
  3. (T&F) In the field of parenting and in family counseling practices, stepfamilies are not "treated" as real families.
  4. (F) When a parent remarries, it is considered healthier for the children to sever ties with the other biological parent temporarily in order to establish a stronger bond with the new stepparent.
  5. (T) It is best if a new stepparent disciplines lightly at first until some respect for his/her authority has been established.
  6. (F) In the case of death or abandonment of a spouse, a stepparent should be regarded by the children as a replacement for the missing parent if the family is to be fully functioning and harmonious.
  7. (T) A parent who remarries may still have to grieve the loss of a former spouse well into the new marriage.
  8. (T) Setting up a household in a "neutral" environment helps a new stepfamily avoid some common pitfalls.
  9. (T) When both parents bring children into a remarriage, it is doubly hard to achieve a sense of family unity.
  10. (F) It takes roughly a year for a stepfamily to stabilize and achieve its full potential
  11. (F) The therapeutic considerations are roughly the same with nuclear and blended families.
  12. (F) Blended families function like a two-parent nuclear family
  13. (F) Members of a stepfamily love and care for each other like nuclear family members.
  14. (F) A spouse should love his/her spouse's children like his/her own
  15. (F) Fortunately, since one or both spouses have already been married, the spouses' expectations are more realistic.

* first ten questions drawn from Blended Learning Program, 1991 United Learning, Inc.



Structural Characteristics of Stepfamilies Which Differ From Biological Families

  1. All individuals have suffered many important losses: relationships, community, dreams of what their marriage would be like.
  2. All individuals in the family come together with previous family histories.
  3. Parent-child relationships predate the new couple relationship.
  4. There is a biological parent elsewhere in actuality or in memory with power and influence over family members.
  5. Children are members of two households if they have contact with both biological parents.
  6. Little if any legal relationship exists between stepparents and stepchildren.

From: Learning to Step Together. Pale Alto, CA: Stepfamily Association of America, 1982.,




Things to Talk About Before you Remarry or Shortly Afterwards

  1. Reasons for remarrying: What is it that you really want from this relationship?
  2. Changes that remarriage will bring: How are your lifestyles different? What are the similarities and differences in your beliefs about child rearing, housekeeping, food and money. How do you feel about moving into a home where your spouse has lived with a former spouse?
  3. How will remarriage affect your children? What affect will your marriage have on your children's relationship with the other biological parent?
  4. What does the stepparent expect and want from his/her stepchildren?
  5. How will you communicate with former spouses? How much contact is appropriate?
  6. How will money be handled? Are you aware of each other's assets and debts? How will child support payments affect your family budget?
  7. What are your feelings about religion in your home, about contact with your extended family, and your general value system?
  8. How will you make time for yourselves to enjoy your new marriage?
  9. What will your stepchildren call you?
  10. How will household responsibilities be shared! What kind of parenting is expected of each of you?

From: Learning to Step Together. Pale Alto, CA: Stepfamily Association of America, 1982.




Tips on Communicating With an Ex-Spouse

  1. Keep the topic of conversation on the business items or the children.
  2. Don't respond to unreasonable demands by ex-spouse.
  3. If you cannot talk to ex-spouse, find a neutral party to exchange information.
  4. Use "I" statements, not "you" statements.
  5. If communication through verbal means is impossible, try written communication.
  6. Do not relay messages to ex-spouses through children.
  7. Keep to commitments about visiting and support payments as closely as possible.
  8. Share information about child with ex-spouse if communication is open, so you two can appreciate his/her unique characteristics.

From: Learning to Step Together. Pale Alto, CA: Stepfamily Association of America, 1982.




Guidelines for Stepfamilies

  1. It is difficult to have a new person or persons move into your "space," and it is difficult to be the "new" person or people joining a preexisting group. For these reasons it helps to cut down feelings involved with "territory" if stepfamilies can start out in their own house or apartment.
  2. Parent-child relationships have preceded the new couple relationship. Because of this, many parents feel that it is a betrayal of the earlier parent-child bond to form a primary relationship with their new partner. A primary couple relationship, however, is usually crucial for the continuing existence of the stepfamily, and therefore is very important for the children as well as for the adults. A strong adult bond can protect the children from another family loss, and it also can provide the children with a positive model for their own eventual marriage relationship. The adults often need to arrange time alone to help nourish this important couple relationship.
  3. Forming new relationships within the stepfamily can be important, particularly when the children are young. Activities involving different subgroups can help such relationships grow. For example, stepfather and stepchildren might do some project together, or stepmother and a stepchild might go shopping together.
  4. Preserving original relationships is also important and can help children experience less loss at sharing a parent. So at times it is helpful for a parent and biological children to have some time together, in addition to stepfamily activities.
  5. Caring relationships take time to evolve. The expectation of "instant love" between stepparents and stepchildren can lead to many disappointments and difficulties. If the stepfamily relationships are allowed to develop as seems comfortable to the individuals involved, then caring between step-relatives has the opportunity to develop.
  6. Subsequent families are :structurally and emotionally different from first families. Upset and sadness is experienced by the children and at times by the adults as they react to the loss of their nuclear family or to the loss of a dream of a perfect marriage. Acceptance that a stepfamily is a different type of family is important, as is the recognition that many upsetting behaviors result from these feelings of insecurity and loss.
  7. Because children are part of two biological parents, they nearly always have very strong pulls to both of these parents. These divided loyalties often make it difficult for children to relate comfortably to all the parental adults in their lives. Rejection of a stepparent, for example, may have nothing to do with the personal characteristics of the stepparent. In fact warm and loving stepparents may cause especially severe loyalty conflicts for children. As children and adults are able to accept the fact that children can care for more than two parental adults, then the children's loyalty conflicts can diminish and the new step relationships improve. While it may be helpful to the children for the adults to acknowledge negative as well as positive feelings about ex-spouses, children may become caught in loyalty conflicts and feel personally insecure if specific critical remarks are made continuously about their other parent.
  8. Courteous relationships between ex-spouses are important, although they are very difficult for many adults to maintain. If such a relationship can be worked out, it is especially helpful to the children. In such instances, the children do not get caught in the middle between two hostile parents, there is less need for the children to take sides, and the children are better able to accept and utilize the positive elements in their living arrangements.
  9. Direct contact between adults can be helpful since it does not place the children in the sometimes powerful position of being message carriers between their biological parents. Although it may be strained, many ex-spouses are able to relate in regards to their children if the focus is kept on their mutual concern for the welfare of the children.
  10. Children, as well as adults, in a stepfamily have a "family history." Suddenly these individuals come together and their sets of "givens" are questioned. Much is to be gained by coming together as a stepfamily unit to work out and develop new family patterns and traditions. Even when the individuals are able to recognize that patterns are not "right" or "wrong," it takes time and patience to work out satisfying new alternatives.
  11. Values (the underlying approach to life and general ways of doing things) do not shift easily. Within a stepfamily, different value systems are inevitable because of different previous family histories, and tolerance for these differences can help smooth the process of stepfamily integration. Needs (specific ways individuals relate together, individual preferences, etc.) can usually be negotiated more quickly than can general values. Having an appreciation for and an expectation of such difficulties can make for more flexibility and relaxation in the stepfamily unit. Negotiation and renegotiation is needed by most such families.
  12. Being a stepparent is an unclear and at times difficult task. The wicked stepmother myth contributes to the discomfort of many women, and cultural, structural and personal factors affect the stepparent role. Spouses can be very helpful to one another if they are able to be supportive with the working out of new family patterns. Step parenting is usually more successful if stepparents carve out a role for themselves that is different from and does not compete with the biological parents.
  13. While discipline is not usually accepted by stepchildren until a friendly relationship has been established (often a matter of 18 to 24 months), both adults do need to support each other's authority in the household. The biological parent may be the primary disciplinarian initially, but when that person is unavailable, it is often necessary for that parent to give a clear message to the children that the stepparent is acting as an "authority figure" for both adults in his or her absence.
  14. Unity between the couple is important to the functioning of the stepfamily. When the couple is comfortable with each other, differences between them in regards to the children can sometimes be worked out in the presence of the children, but at no time does it work out for either children or adults to let the children approach each adult separately and "divide and conquer." When disciplinary action is necessary, if it is not kept within the stepfamily household, many resentful feelings can be generated. For example, if visitation rights are affected, the non-custodial parent is being included in the action without his or her representation. Such a punishment, then, may lead to difficulties greater than the original behavior that caused the disciplinary action.
  15. Integrating a stepfamily that contains teenagers can be particularly difficult. At this age adolescents are moving away from their families in any type of family. In single parent families teenagers have often been "young adults," and with the remarriage of a parent they find it extremely difficult or impossible to return to being in a "child" position again.
  16. Adolescents have more of a previous "family history" and so they ordinarily appreciate having considerable opportunity to be part of the stepfamily negotiations, although they. may withdraw from both biological parents and not wish to be part of many of the "family" activities.
  17. "Visiting" children usually feel strange and are outsiders in the neighborhood. It can be helpful if they have some place in the household that is their own. For example, a drawer or a shelf for toys and clothes. If they are included in stepfamily chores and projects when they are with the stepfamily, they tend to feel more connected to the group. Bringing a friend with them to share the visit and having some active adult participation in becoming integrated into the neighborhood.
  18. Foreknowledge can make a difference to many visiting children. Knowing ahead of time that there is going to be an interesting activity (stepfamily game of monopoly, etc.) can sometimes give visiting children a pleasant activity to anticipate.
  19. Non-custodial parents and stepparents often are concerned because they have so little time to transmit their values to visiting children. Since children tend to resist concerted efforts by the adults to instill stepfamily ideals during each visit, it is comforting to parents and stepparents to learn that the examples of behavior and relationships simply observed in the household can effect choices made by all the children later in their lives when they are grown and on their own.
  20. Sexuality is usually more apparent in stepfamilies because of the new couple relationship, and because children may suddenly be living with other children with whom they have not grown up. Also there are not the usual incest taboos operating. It is important for the children to receive affection and to be aware of tenderness between the couple, but it may also be important for the couple to minimize to some extent the sexual aspects of the household, and to help the children understand, accept and control their sexual attractions to one another or to the adults.
  21. All families experience stressful times. Children tend to show little day to day appreciation for their parents, and at times they get angry and reject them. Because stepfamilies are families born of loss, the mixture of feelings can be even more intense than in nuclear families. Jealousy, rejection, guilt, and anger can be more pronounced, and therefore expectations that the stepfamily will live "happily ever after" is even more unrealistic than it is in first families. Having an understanding and acceptance of the many negative as well as positive feelings can result in less disappointment and more stepfamily enjoyment.
  22. Keeping even minimal contact between adults and children can lead to future satisfaction since time and maturity bring many changes. With some communication between stepfamily members, satisfying interpersonal relationships often develop in the future when children become more independent in their relationships with both biological parents and with stepparents.

    Adapted from Stepfamilies: Myths and Realities,

    by Emily and John Visher.

    Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press,



    HANDOUT #6

    The Cruel Stepmother

    In remarriage one is confronted by cultural contradictions.

  23. On the one hand told stepmothers are cruel, and on the other hand told that everyone is supposed to instantly love one another. No other relationship has this expectation of instant affection or love. If there is the expectation of instant love from self or stepchildren, the stage is set for disappointment, guilt, and resentment.


    1. unrealistic expectation

    - - - - -

    I should love stepchildren

    2. fail expectation

    - - -

I don't love stepchildren

    3. I'm inadequate

- - - -

feel bad about self, feel guilty

    4. resentment

- - - -

grows resentful towards the stepchild

since he/she brings out inadequacy

    5. unfair treatment

    - - - -

resentment leads to

picking on stepchild

6. more guilt

- - - -

I'm not being fair

7. attempt to feel better about self

- - - -

conclude stepchild is unlovable

and no one could love him/her

8. further attempt to feel

better about self

- - - -

find evidence that spouse

does not love my child

9. trouble between couple

and between self and stepchild

B. A further expectation is that one should not only love stepchildren, but love them as much as biological children.
1. Clearly not likely, but it is possible to like stepchildren, to be a supportive friend.
2. It can be a real advantage for stepchildren to have a more objective adult (stepparent),
if the parent can accept that objective viewpoint, which at times may be critical.
3. May want to discuss the difference in feelings with step children if it seems like they can handle the information..."we feel differently because our relationship is different.
It will take time for it to grow and develop."
a. May want to let the children take the lead in this step (similar to talking about sex). If the child questions, "how come stepdaddy or stepmommy likes his/her kids better," should level with stepchildren rather than deny differences.
b. This can be very relieving to the children since they probably love their biological parents more but feel guilty for doing so.
4. A consequence of trying to pretend that there are feelings of affection toward a stepchild when they do not exist is that one feels very self conscious and inhibited in expressing affection, etc., to biological children.
5. Children are put in a bind as a result of instant love expectation, too.
a. Feel guilt if do not love stepparent.
b. If does love stepparent, feels disloyal to absent biological parent.
II. Cruel stepmother myth has endured for centuries in all cultures (Cinderella, Snow White).
A. Theme the same in each culture. Stepmother prefers her own children and attempts to alienate her husband from his children.
B. However, stepfathers prefer their own children too, so why not a myth about them?
1. Boils down to the fact that society (and children) expect more parenting from mothers than from fathers, and if a mother figure lets a child down, there is more hurt and more anger. This is written into the literature. .
C. Children discard the myth much sooner than their stepmothers.
How to become more comfortable with the myth:
1. Accept the fact that parents have different feelings for their own children and for stepchildren.
a. If don't force feelings, they will come more easily.
2. Accept the fact that stepparents will be unfair to stepchildren occasionally.
3. Natural to resent work done for stepchildren - parenting not easy even for biological children.
4. Do not expect extra appreciation from stepchildren for work. They take for granted just as biological children do that parents will do things for them - it's a form of acceptance.
5. Beware of displacement of anger- stepchildren are a natural target if angry at spouse. Get angry at spouse if that is where the anger lies.
6. Do not hold back anger at stepchild if that is where the anger really is. Holding back anger is poisonous to all relationships. Parents and stepparents have a lot of power and can "get" the child indirectly. Children can handle anger if expressed directly.
7. Remember that it is easier to argue about the stepchildren and blame them for things going wrong in the couple relationship than it is to acknowledge that things are not peachy in that relationship.
III. Competition for Love and Affection
A. There may be many competing groups in a stepfamily:
1. Stepmother vs. stepchildren when they visit for dad's affection.
2. Stepfather vs. mother's children for mother's affection.
3. Husband's children vs. wife's children for affection of parent or stepparent.
By accepting and understanding that such rivalries are common, the situations will not seem so overwhelming and attention can be given to figuring out ways to reduce the factions: (e.g., Husband and wife do things alone.) Children have special times with one of the couple alone from time to time..
C. Competition between stepsiblings.
1. Inevitable that competition will develop as children in the family attempt to insure that they will have a place in the family system.
a. Hard at first for children to share their biological parent with a stepbrother or sister. Can ease this by giving biological children some special attention, reassure them that they are still as important, give them an opportunity to vent their resentments about the stepsiblings.
2. Competition most apt to manifest itself over issues of:
a. Who gets what: clothes, toys, money, bikes, etc.
b. Equal treatment: in terms of expenditures, keep spending roughly equal, but not necessarily the same. If one child gets a bike, it doesn't mean the other has to have one also.
From: Learning to Step Together. Pale Alto, CA: Stepfamily Association of America, 1982.
Tips for Stepmothers
1. Accept the role of stepmother.
2. Don't be a non-parent.
3. Clarify role with spouse.
4. Learn to live with reality of ex-spouses.
5. Don't blame yourself for every misbehavior of your stepchildren.
6. You don't have to love your stepchildren--like: and respect, yes.
7. Save time for your own activities.
8. Make yourself available.
9. Be patient--relationships take time to develop attention.
10. Be discreet with physical
From: Learning to Step Together.
Pale Alto, CA: Stepfamily Association of America, 1982.
Tips for Stepfathers
1. Develop relationship before attempting discipline.
2. Help partner establish rules, but don't enforce too soon.
3. Take side of stepchild if Mom is being unreasonable.
4. Remind children that they continue to be loved by the mother.
5. Get chore issues out into open and negotiate.
6. Talk to your wife if you feel undermined.
7. It's okay to ask for thanks from your stepchildren.
8. Discuss appropriate dress, privacy, and modesty standards of teenage stepchildren.
9. Share yourself, spend time with each stepchild.
10. Be discreet with physical attention.
From: Learning to Step Together. Pale Alto, CA: Stepfamily Association of America, 1982.
Tips for Remarried Parents
1. Give your partner time to develop a relationship with your children.
2. Give partner and children the chance to interact and do things alone.
3. Make "alone time" for you and your new partner.
4. Do things alone with your child from time to time and assure them of your love.
5. Treat all the children equally in terms of rules, rewards and responsibilities.
6. Be really honest with your feelings.
7. Allow partner to voice negative feelings.
8. Keep Your responses under control.
9. Be discreet with physical attention.
From Learning To Step Together. Palo Alto, CA: Stepfamily Association of America, 1982.
Stresses for Children in Stepfamilies
1. Hearing their biological parents argue (over the phone, at the door, etc.) and say negative things. They may wonder if they're to blame for this.
2. Not being able or allowed to see their other biological parent, and resenting their stepparent for this.
3. Feeling blamed for everything that goes wrong.
4. Hearing their parent and stepparent fight, and fearing that this marriage will break up.
5. Having their parents do more for stepsiblings than for them.
6. Having stepsiblings get into their belongings and intrude on their space and privacy.
7. Dealing with feelings of not being wanted (often testing to see if either household wants them).
8. Feeling angry and depressed and wishing it could all be the way it was before the death or divorce.
9. Having a stepparent tell them what to do and resenting this.
10. Feeling that it's up to them to make the new household "work."
11. Feeling like pawns and messengers tossed between their biological parents who are still feeling bitter and angry towards one another.
12. Adjusting to all the new rules in the household.
From Learning to Stay Together. Pale Alto, CA: Stepfamily Association of America, 1982.
Guidelines to Giving Praise
1. Say how you feel about your child's behavior. For example, expressing thanks, relief, excitement, or happiness.
2. Follow a statement of your feelings with a specific description of a behavior that you found pleasing. For example, "I am so pleased that you spent time playing with your little brother."
3. The message should also describe the benefits that result from a pleasing behavior. It is helpful for a child to know exactly how his behavior has helped someone else in the family. For example, "I am pleased that you spent time playing with your younger brother because it gave me time to start dinner." Again, it is important to look for and validate on a regular basis the positive things that your children are doing. It is much easier to be critical, to comment on the negative things, and to try to change your children's behavior. However, it brings you closer to your children and enhances their self-esteem if you can give them encouragement that is specific, consistent, and shared on a regular basis.
From Learning to Step Together. Pale Alto, CA: Stepfamily Association of America, 1982.
Building Self-Esteem in Children
1. Look for behaviors in your children and stepchildren that you like, even if they are small things and not particularly unusual.
2. Remember that you cannot encourage or praise your children too much. Attempt to share some positive words and affectionate gestures with your child or stepchild on a daily basis.
3. Sometimes a pat on the back, a hug, or an arm across the shoulder can be an affirming gesture. Thank your children for the things they do that help you and help the family.
4. Remember that your involvement with your children, playing cards, reading, visiting or watching TV is positive social reinforcement.
5. Arrange time during each week when you can spend a few moments alone with each child. It may be only a few minutes in which you help them tie their shoes or pack their lunches. During this time, listen to your children or stepchildren and ask them to share things that have been happening with them, with their friends, in the neighborhood, or at school.
6. Listen to their opinions. and take their suggestions seriously. Ask for your child's ideas or feelings about family problems. This will encourage your child to develop a sense of commitment to the family.
7. Encourage your children to be responsible members of your stepfamily by offering them opportunities to take responsibility around the home. This could include doing the wash, cleaning their room, or helping with supper.
From: Learning to Step Together. Pale Alto, CA: Stepfamily Association of America, 1982.
A Memorandum from Your Child
Set limits for me. I know quite well that I ought not to have all I ask for. I am only testing you.
Be firm with me. I prefer it. It lets me know where I stand.
Lead me rather than force me. If you force me, it teaches me that power is all that counts. I will respond more readily to being led.
Inconsistency confuses me and makes me try harder to get away with what I can.
Be consistent with everything.
Make promises that you will be able to keep. That will encourage my trust in you.
Remember that I am being provocative when I say and do things just to upset you. If you fall for my provocations, I'll try for more such victories.
Keep calm when I say "I hate you." I don't mean it, I just want you to feel sorry for what you have done to me.
Help me feel big rather than small. I will make up for feeling small by behaving like a "big shot."
Let me do the things that I can do for myself. If you do them for me, it makes me feel like a baby, and I may continue to put you in my service, permanently.
Correct me in private. I'll take much more notice if you talk quietly with me in private rather than with other people present.
Discuss my behavior when the conflict has subsided. In the heat of conflict for some reason my hearing is not very good and my cooperation is even worse. It is all right for you to take the action required, but let's not talk about it until later.
Talk with me rather than preach to me. You'd be surprised how well I know what's right and wrong.
Help me feel that my mistakes are not sins. I have to learn to make mistakes without feeling that I am no good.
Talk firmly without nagging. If you nag, I shall protect myself by appearing deaf.
Let my wrong behavior go without explanations. I really don't know why I did it.
Accept as much as you can what I am able to tell you. I am easily frightened into telling lies if my honesty is taxed too much.
From Learning to Stay Together. Pale Alto, CA: Stepfamily Association of America, 1982.
How To Build Relationships With Children in Your Stepfamily
1. Teach a skill.
2. Come through in an emergency.
3. Be truthful.
4 Spend time.
5. Assign a special responsibility.
6. Share a favorite book/game.
7 . Explain money situation--spend a little.
8. Allow time for relationship to develop.
9. Give an honest compliment.
10 Allow some talk about absent parent.
11. Talk to your spouse.
12. Catch children being good.
13. Ask about the day.
14. Listen.
15. Give children space.
From Learning to Step Together. Pale Alto, CA: Stepfamily Association of America, 1982.
Rule Setting: Changing Behavior Step by Step
Any demand made on another person is a rule. For a rule to work, it must be definable, reasonable and enforceable.
Definable means parents must be specific in what they want the child to do.
Reasonable means the rule must be within the child's physical and mental capabilities.
Enforceable means a parent must be able to enforce a rule consistently.
1. Select one behavior on which to focus. It is desirable to concentrate on only
one behavior at a time.
2. Describe the behavior you consider undesirable, specifically and concretely.
To change a behavior, it is most helpful if what you wish to change is clearly specified (so clearly that an observer would know for certain that the behavior is or is not occurring--specific time of day, exact words, specific actions).
3. Describe the behavior you wish to establish, specifically and concretely.
4. Since behavior often does not change all at once, list the change in reasonable steps
(if this applies).
5. Check if the behavior you want to establish fits the definitions we have discussed.
Definable _________ Reasonable __________ Enforceable_________
6. Does the person whose behavior you wish to change know what behaviors you consider acceptable?
How do you plan to let them know?
a. consequences for acceptable behavior
b. consequences for unacceptable behavior
7. State rule as you will present it to your child.
Contingency Rules
To teach a child to carry out responsibilities, require the less preferred activity to come before a more preferred activity (fun).
Activities a child likes to do can be used to REINFORCE doing things a child cares less about.
"You can play ball when you finish your homework."
"When everybody is seated at the table and quiet, father will say grace and we can eat."
"Eat your vegetables and then you can have some pie."
"When your room is picked up, I've got a special treat for you." "Take your bath and then you can have some cookies and milk." "You can go out to play after you take out the trash."
"You can go out and play if you'll do your homework later."
"You can go to the movies tonight, if you'll do your homework tomorrow."
From Learning to Step Together. Pale Alto, CA: Stepfamily Association of America, 1982.
Guidelines for Family Meetings
Meet at regularly scheduled time and be consistent.
Rotate the responsibility for leading the meeting among all family members.
Plan a specific amount of time to meet, 20 or 30 minutes, depending on the ages of the children and the number of items to be discussed.
All family members need to have an opportunity to make suggestions. Adults need to be careful not to dominate with an agenda or with solutions to problems.
Meetings are not productive if they become merely gripe sessions. Encourage family members to share positive things that have happened to them during the week, and what they are enjoying about each other. Encourage compliments and support for each other as well as discussion of complaints.
To decide household chores, have everyone make a list and discuss how to distribute tasks fairly.
Agreements stay in effect until the next family meeting, when they can be renegotiated if necessary.
Complaints should be discussed with everyone present.
The family meeting provides an opportunity for everyone to bring up issues, not just the parents. Keeping an agenda can ensure that everyone has been encouraged to raise issues during the family meetings.
10. Make the meetings more than problem-solving sessions. Ideally, they should include fun items, such as planning for family outings, or recreation.
From: Learning to Step Together. Pale Alto, CA: Stepfamily Association of America, 1982.
Problem Solving Method
1. State the problem.
2. Identify all of the facts and issues related to the problem.
3. Search for alternatives--"idea finding."
4. Identify the consequences of the alternatives.
5. Rank the alternatives in terms of desirability and feasibility.
6. Choose an alternative and commit the family to that solution.

From: Learning to Step Together. Pale Alto, CA: Stepfamily Association of America, 1982.




Principles of Couple Communication

  1. Set aside a certain amount of time each week to spend together. Have this time free from interruptions so that you have an opportunity to listen to each other.
  2. When communicating, use "I" messages, and send clear, direct messages about what you feel and what you want.
  3. Become aware of body language and body posture when communicating. Facing each other, making direct eye contact, and sitting with open body posture can enhance communication.
  4. Paraphrase when discussion seems vague. That is, rephrase in your own words what you think your partner has said and see if that is, in fact, what your partner means or is trying to say. Ask him or her if what you said is right. If it is not then have him or her explain a little differently. Then tell him or her back what you understand. Follow this method until you come to an understanding of what he or she is saying.
  5. Share emotions. Talking about your feelings is one of the most effective ways to build trust, openness and closeness in your relationship.
  6. Take the time to give positive and reinforcing feedback to each other. Commenting on things that you like about each other, and openly appreciating what you do for each other builds closeness. Try to find something each day that your spouse has done that you appreciate, that you enjoy, or that you respect, and share that with your spouse.
  7. When conflicts arise, use the problem-solving model.



From: Learning to Step Together. Pale Alto, CA: Stepfamily Association of America, 1982.

Permission to reproduce information given in 1997.



Borup, J.H. and Campbell, S.C. (1988). Military Blended Family Digest For Chaplains and Practitioners. Weber State College *Good for Cross Culture Marriage Counseling.

Currier, C. (1986). Learning To Step Together. A Manual for Leaders, Prepared for Step-Family Association of America, Inc. *Excellent for groups, lectures and workshops.

Einstein, E. (1985) . The Step-Family; Living, Loving and Learning. Shambhala Publications Inc.

*Educational Approach.

Einstein, E. Albert, (1986). Strengthening Your Step-Family.

American Guidance Service

Excellent educational approach. The box includes exercises and additional study material.

Ricci, I. (1980). Mom's House, Dad's House; How Parents Can Make Two Homes for Their Children After Divorce, Macmilian Publishing.

*Good for clients.

Wald, E. (1981). The Remarried Family; Challenge and Promise. Family Service Association of America.

Excellent technical information for therapy.

Visher and Visher. (1993). Step-Families. Myths and Realities. Citadel Press, Published by Carol Publishing Group. *Innovators of Step-Families of America. Excellent for therapists and clients.

Visher and Visher. (1991). How To Win As A Step-Family 2nd ed. Brunner and Mazel Publishers.

Excellent for therapists and clients.

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

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