"the spiraling potential
without and within"


Steparenting Without Guilt Tips


1)      Be prepared from the beginning that stepfamilies do not function the same as intact, nuclear families. There can be a lot of adjustments to work through, both practical and emotional.


2)      Good stepfamily relationships can exist without love. They do, however, require consistency and trust. Fairness goes a long way toward earning respect.


3)      Question the natural parent when he or she promises “to take care of everything.” No matter how sincere and well intentioned your future spouse may be, it may not work out that way in day-to-day stepfamily reality.


4)      Stepparenting (and biological parenting) are not about winning a popularity contest. They are about doing the job that is called for, and sometimes that job is tough.


5)      Know the virtue and necessity of accepting what you cannot change and work from there. Do not try to “fix” everything all at once. Sometimes with stepparenting less can be more.


6)      Playing “Who’s to Blame?” is a no-win situation in stepfamilies. It only serves to fuel further antagonism between stepfamily members rather than fostering mutuality and compromise.


7)      Your stepfamily may experience a lot of emotional reactivity because members can hurt in a lot of places. Often it is both useful and important to take a deep breath and count to ten before responding.


8)      There is a point where your biological children come first, and this has nothing to do with being a “mean” or “wicked” stepparent. You do not have to save your stepchildren at the expense of your own off-spring.


9)      If you honestly and sincerely cannot deal with your stepchild, do not lie to yourself that you can. Accept your limitations and work from there.


10)  The greatest gift you can give your stepchild (or child) is permission to be happy in both homes. We do not all have to act or think the same way, and learning how to honor differences is vital to this way of life.




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Maurine B. Doerken M.S., M.A., M.F.T.

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