Successful Stepfamilies

In honor of Stepfamily Day, here are some characteristics of successful stepfamilies, quoted from Forever Families:

Losses have been mourned. Stepfamilies often are formed out of loss. Adults and children in successful stepfamilies acknowledge these losses but are ready to move on to new way of family life. They are looking to the future.

Expectations are realistic. Knowing what to expect will help you be patient with stepfamily integration, which can take from one and a half to five or six years, depending in part on the ages of the children.

There is a strong, unified couple. Even though it may seem like trying to “have a honeymoon in the midst of a crowd,” the couple plans enough time alone together to nourish their relationship.

Constructive rituals and traditions are established. Traditions related to holidays and special events are important ways for families to be togther. Successful stepfamilies continue the traditions established in earlier families or combine them to form new traditions.

Satisfactory step-relationships have formed. Step-relationships take time to grow and develop. Successful stepfamilies have an awareness of this and work for mutual satisfaction.

The separate households cooperate. Resident and nonresident parents have developed a parenting coalition. Instead of competing with one another, cooperative parents focus on the best interests of the child in ways that promote positive child development and continued beneficial contact with both biological parents.


Unfortunately, you are only half the equation on that last one. Your best efforts to develop a cooperative, healthy relationship between the two households aren’t likely to be terribly successful when one parent insists on counterproductive and poisonous games.

Here’s one way of looking at this situation in a potentially new light: “…the stepparent is in a unique position to be supportive to the child. Because of their sometimes ‘outside the family’ stance, they may be able to view family problems more objectively and provide more objective solutions” (source: Recognizing Stepfamily Myths, Realities, and Strengths).

Other sources:

Successful Stepfamilies by Jeffrey Cottrill
Includes “Are You Ready?”, “Set Ground Rules”, “Stepfamily Dynamics”

Do’s and Don’t of Successful Stepfamilies by Susan Wilkins-Hubley
My favorite DO: “Communicate openly and honestly. Honesty will never come back to haunt you.”

Stepping Stones for Stepfamilies by Kansas State University
Importance of communication; stages of stepfamily development; supporting your partner


About TheSmirkingCat

I am endlessly trying to make sense of a world that has completely and unapologetically lost its mind.
This entry was posted in stepfamilies, Stepfamily Day, successful stepfamilies. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Successful Stepfamilies

  1. lucky13 says:

    thank you for posting this, it’s still very helpful for me to research new sources and find hope for the future.

  2. Smirking Cat says:

    It was helpful just researching for this post. I plan to revamp my sidebar and organize my links to include resources like these.

  3. SMILF says:

    Great post – yeah, the last one. That is a toughie when dealing with a selfish idiot as the BM. Sigh.

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