Understanding and working with Stepfamilies

Module Sections:

Prioritizing Inclusion

Strategies: Inclusion involves taking advantage of opportunities for family members to understand stepfamily living and create opportunities to develop a sense of family. Stepfamily integration often takes several years for the members to feel fully integrated. Much of this is due to subscribing to the various stepfamily myths and the development of unrealistic expectations members have regarding how this family will repair the hurts from previous family experiences. In addition members have to find a balance between the loyalty to the history and desire to become involved in new relationships.

  • Psychoeducation:
    • Debunking the myths about stepfamilies
      • Helping members to recognize how their attitudes and behaviors are keeping those myths alive.
  • Ritual development
    • Learn from the child about significant activities and ways of relating that help them to feel more secure and valued

Techniques:

Linking Through Lists: This activity helps members to share their likes and dislikes in a less intimidating way. (Strengthening Stepfamilies, American Guidance Service, Inc., 1986)

  • Family creates questions or topics that can help them get to know one another. Each member writes the answers to the questions and then reads them aloud.
  • Kinds of books I like to read, songs like to sing or listen to, TV shows I like to watch, dreams for the family, people I like to be with, sports I like to play, places I like to go, etc.

All About Me: This activity will help family members get to know each other on a deeper level through sharing personal attitudes and feelings. (Strengthening Stepfamilies, American Guidance Service, Inc., 1986)

  • The therapist provides a list of unfinished statements family members each answer while the others are listening
  • These could include: "If I were older (younger) I would…", "When I make a mistake, I feel… ", "I like friends who… ", "Something I like (dislike) about my stepfamily is… ", etc.

Audio Companion: Understanding Stepfamilies