Understanding and working with Stepfamilies

Module Sections:

Facilitating Transitions

Strategies: Creating openings for families who have not dealt with the transition process prior to the remarriage to handle through the therapy process. These strategies should involve helping the children to resolve issues prior to the remarriage as well as adjust to the changes occurring with the remarriage.

Techniques

  • Moments to Remember: This activity is designed to create a sense of openness where family members can discuss the past with the purpose of reducing loyalty conflicts
    • The therapist reassures everyone that it is ok for them to talk about any memory or experience they want to describe. This includes memories that may not have included someone in the immediate stepfamily.
    • The therapist reads aloud (or has the family read) a list of unfinished sentences that each member will finish.
      • "One of the happiest times in my other family (in my first family, with my ex-spouse) was…", "One of the saddest times was…", "One of the nicest things anyone ever said to me was…", "One of the funniest things that ever happened to me was…", "The last time I cried was…", etc.
      • This can also be played like a card game with a set of index cards and members draw a card and respond. (Strengthening Stepfamilies, American Guidance Service, Inc., 1986)

Celebrating Diverse Histories

Strategies: It is vital to assist stepfamilies in celebrating and honoring the histories each bring to the relationship.

Techniques:

  • Before We Got Together: This activity is focused on learning about each family member's personal history. (Strengthening Stepfamilies, American Guidance Service, Inc., 1986)
    • Each member brings personal memorabilia (old photos, scrap book, schoolwork, report cards, artwork, awards/certificates, or anything that tells about self)
    • Each member goes through these items explaining the memorabilia, why it is being saved, and what memories it stirs for them.
      • Each member chooses the most significant item to display on a bulletin board together.
  • NOTE: The Strengthening Stepfamily program contains 30-40 activities for stepfamilies at varying phases of stepfamily development. These activities can be completed with the therapist or by the family during structured family time, long drives or any time a family has time together.

Applying the Framework & Post-Test

Audio Companion: Understanding Stepfamilies