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Around Our Town...Family

Stepfamilies: Blending, Babying, Battling, or Brutalizing?

06/01/2006 - The complex issues related to stepfamilies are more than a source of comedic material for The Brady Bunch! As the number of stepfamilies increases, the social implications are also staggering. Ron L. Deal, a foremost authority on the subject, defines a stepfamily as: "a family in which at least one of the adult spouses has children from a prior relationship." Here are a few of the statistics that are presented in his workbook Building Successful Stepfamilies:

About 65% of remarriages involve children from the prior marriage and thus form stepfamilies.

Approximately 1300 stepfamilies are formed every day in the U.S. and it is predicted that by the year 2010, there will be more stepfamilies in this country than any other type of family.

More than half of Americans today have been, are now, or will eventually be in one or more stepfamily situations during their lifetime.

1 out of 3 Americans is now a stepparent, stepchild, stepsibling, or some other member of a stepfamily.

All of us can probably think of stepfamilies that we know (friends, family members, etc.) even if our own family is not a stepfamily. Depending on how well we know the family, we probably are aware of some of the common problems that these families face. Some common obstacles to stepfamily health include: marital conflict, different parenting styles, angry stepchildren who do not accept a parent's new partner as a legitimate authority figure in the home, a spouse feeling jealous or neglected when the partner spends inordinate amounts of time communicating with the ex-spouse, a sense of favoritism on the part of a stepchild toward a stepparent's natural children vs. his or her stepchildren, different value systems represented by each parent and their spouses, and just the complexity of the family system that makes life pretty tense at times . . . . and that's just the beginning!

Having been a stepfather for over 22 years, I have a personal stake in helping to bring attention to this particular subject. I love my stepchildren very much but we have had our struggles over the years. There wasn't a huge amount of information that would define what a healthy stepfamily was supposed to look like back then. Thankfully, Jason and Michelle have been very patient and forgiving as we have gone through the process of defining our roles together. I am in full agreement with the trend currently to abandon the term "blended family" in favor of "stepfamily". Even after all of these years, I wouldn't say we are blended but rather we have a much better understanding of the rules and roles that determine how our relationships are going to work best for our specific family. Those rules and roles vary with the personality and temperament of the child and the dynamics in the relationship with the biological parent. Every child is different and the way they respond to a stepparent will be different as well.

I have chosen to highlight the topic of stepfamilies in the months of June and July because there is an exciting conference being presented in Casper in August. This conference is designed to help everyone survive the challenges of this unique type of family system. The details of the conference are as follows:

Building a Successful Stepfamily Conference

Date: August 18-19, 2006

Presenter: Ron L Deal, M.MFT., President, Successful Stepfamilies and author of The Smart Stepfamily

Hosted by: Highland Park Community Church and Faith Initiatives of Wyoming

Please join us for this incredible opportunity! If you have any questions, please call Mona Maxwell at 265-3977.

Comments or suggestions for future

topics? Mailing address:

The Healing Place,

Highland Park

Community Church

411 S. Walsh,

Casper, Wyoming 82601

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