Chapter 10 is appropriately titled “Juggling on a Tightrope: Special Issues with Stepfamilies.” Mark E. Crawford is quick to mention that the rest of the book is completely applicable to stepfamilies who are expecting a new child, but wanted to take some time to mention that there are special challenges stepfamilies face, and give some advice on how to tackle those special challenges.
He spends quite a bit of time discussing reasonable expectations around stepfamilies – he refers to something he calls The Brady Myth. He discusses how the perfect blended family situation depicted in The Brady Bunch is unrealistic, and that stepfamilies should not expect things to go quite as smoothly – it can be quite a bit of work to bring the two families together. Plus, don’t forget that they had some other advantages – like a live-in housekeeper!
Crawford lists a variety of topics to consider when blending families – one big one being “defining the role of the stepparent.” There’s a lot to consider when deciding exactly how stepparents fit into their role as parents to their stepchildren. He cautions stepparents to not get hung up on titles – it’s okay if the child doesn’t want to call you mom or dad immediately. He also mentions not to try too hard to get the stepchildren to like you. It can come across as manipulative or phony and have the opposite of the intended effect.
Crawford goes on to mention other hot button topics like not forgetting that you have extra sets of grandparents to fit into the equation and to work on coming to terms with the fact that your spouse has married before – there can be a lot of complicated emotions involved.
However, to keep with the main theme of this book club, it’s probably a good idea to focus on the topic of children. Crawford discusses two big scenarios – having mutual children and legally adopting stepchildren.
In the case of mutual children, Crawford cautions that children should be something that both members of the relationship absolutely want – no pressuring the other member. He also makes sure to state that this is important across the board advice, stepfamily or not. However, he mentions that a stepfamily where one member of the relationship has had a biological child and another has not can be extra susceptible to not being on the same page about more children.
He also says to consider the feelings of the other children – it may be a bit more complicated for them than if both of their biological parents were having children together. He makes sure to say that you shouldn’t necessarily let the children’s feeling dictate your final decision in either direction, but to keep in mind that there may be some extra preparation and emotions to deal with during and after the pregnancy.
On the topic of adopting a stepchildren, he actually gives very similar advice – all parties involved must be enthusiastic (assuming the child is old enough to understand what’s going on). He also issues a strong word of caution – the child should never be asked or instructed to break adoption related news to the nonresident biological parent. Instead, this should begin as an adults-to-adult conversation.
This chapter is absolutely bursting with great advice for stepfamilies – I would definitely recommend taking a look, even if you’re not planning on introducing a new baby to the equation any time soon!
Thank you for joining us for this book club! We’re still picking our next book, but you can expect a new post next Wednesday! If you have any suggestions for book club books (or even just topics – we can find the book) let us know.