about stepfamily associates

How To Live With Other People's Children

A stepfamily is created when two adults come together to form a new sexual relationship in which one or both have children. Long before marriage, when still dating, get the information and support you need.

Couples often feel the problems as a personal failure rather than a situational crisis.

Two things help: getting information and talking with other stepparents.

Living with other people's children brings us face to face with ideas about family; not usually a stepfamily. Adults struggles with enough time to create their relationship together. Children try to find places in two families. Some information and a chance to talk with others can help everyone find a new picture for their family. One of the important issues for people in stepfamilies is feeling isolated.

Stepfamily Associates provides workshops and groups to understand this interesting and stressful process. Find a new language to talk about the real family connections rather than the connections you think you're 'supposed' to have.

"We all have a picture of a family. It is not usually a stepfamily."

Since 1980, when Stepfamily Associates began doing business, we've been using these sentences on our brochures and booklets to catch people's attention and introduce what we do. Back then, we had just come out of what some refer to as the "decade of divorce" and most of us still thought of stepfamilies as a relatively new way to live. Many were curious, watching this cultural phenomenon gather force. But if you were living in a stepfamily, struggling to create bonds with someone else's children or laboring to like, or love, a new parent, you might have regarded stepfamily living as not just curious but kind of crazy.

A lot has changed in 20 years, in terms of how our families are structured, and how we talk about what that means. Still, people creating new families struggle with the same things: feelings of loss, guilt, love, anger, hope, jealousy and frustration.

Everyone's talking about families: stepfamilies, single-parent families, blended families, gay and lesbian families. Open any magazine for any given day, week or month and you're likely to find an article about coping with ex-partners, stepmothers who feel used, stepfathers who feel trapped, custody questions, finances and how to "do" holidays and vacation.

When you close your eyes and think "family," what do you see? Maybe you still see mom and dad and two kids and a dog. But more likely, you see something else, some strange mix or what you've had and what you want and how you imagine other people live. There's no such thing as FAMILY anymore, there never was. There was and is always only YOUR family, whatever that may be. And no matter how that family is structured, there's a lot to learn about how to live in it and live with it.

In our work with families, we've found that a family which works well for all its members has three essential qualities: a sense of predictability about one another and how things work, empathy for one another, and humor. Often these are the very qualities missing at the beginning of step-relationships. People in stepfamilies need to develop understanding and coping strategies to begin to feel safe and comfortable as a new family. Stepfamily Associates offers group and workshops to help people learn new ways to talk and better understand how to establish predictability, empathy and humor in their new families.

Each member of the stepfamily has a powerful point of view. Stepmothers tell of feeling used and used and used. Stepfathers tell of feeling like strangers in their own homes. Stepchildren feel they never really belong and, at the same time feel tugged in so many directions. Parents with children living with them in stepfamilies, feel split between children and a new partner. Parents who visit say they sense a loss and powerlessness over their children's growth and development.

                                          Copyright 1999-2002, Stepfamilies Associates. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without explicit permission is prohibited. Last updated October 10, 2002.  Web site development by Woods Web.