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If "The Happy Stepmother" sounds like an oxymoron, you may need this book! The author is a licensed family therapist as well as a stepmother herself. See my special review of this book , or just click on the cover above.


Bray, Dr. James H., and John Kelly,  Stepfamilies: Love, Marriage, and Parenting in the First Decade , Broadway Books, NY, 1998. Click to order.

Based on an NIH study of stepfamilies in the first decade of their living together, Bray's and Kelly's book offers a wealth of information, including quotes from parents and children during their interviews by the authors. Bray and Kelly divide stepfamilies into three groups, according to the expectations and styles of the parents: Neotraditionalist, Matriarchal, and Romantic, and explore stepfamily life for each group. (The Romantics have the most trouble.) The authors also discuss stepfamily life according to three cycles. The one of most interest to visitors to Parenting Adolescents may be Cycle 3, "The Passage to Adolescence," Chapter 9. The authors write (p. 241):

"When we analyzed our data for this period, we found that a gap had reopened between our step- and nuclear families on markers like stress and parental conflict. There was also an increase in acting out and social problems among the target children in our stepfamilies. But all of these negative changes were related to the same -- mercifully transitory -- phenomenon. The stepfamily had a teenager in it now. "

We take this as confirmation of our own sense that adolescence is often a time of struggle and change and growth, that produces turbulence in the family system. Recommended. Click to order.

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Stepliving for Teens: Getting Along with Stepparents, Parents, and Siblings , by Dr. Joel D. Blick and Dr. Susan S. Bartell, Price, Stern, Sloan, 2001, paper.

For about $5, teens who want to know how to cope with their lives in a stepfamily can get some excellent advice and tips from the good doctors who authored this book. Younger kids can understand it too -- it's written for ages 8 and up.

Here are some of the questions/concerns kids and teens may have that the book tries to address:

- fear of being forgotten when the biological parent and stepparent have a child of their own

- wanting to move out, live with the other family

- feelings of losing closeness and trust with the biological parent

- the way money is spent

Both authors are psychologists who specialize in family relationships. This one is highly recommended -- parents, get it for a child you know.

-- at a discount --

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this page updated 6/14/10

  Family Rules : Helping Stepfamilies and Single Parents Build Happy Homes,
by Jeannette Lofas

This one gets 5-star ratings from several readers. Here's what one said:

"If I had gotten ahold of this book a few years ago, it would have saved my marraige. All the things that went wrong are addressed in it. This book shows not only how to handle the day to day things that come up but also how to create an atmosphere that prevents a lot of the problems that families deal with."

Get it at a discount--click here.

The Complete Idiot's Guiode to Stepparenting, (Complete Idiot's Guides)
by Ericka Lutz

Here's what one reader, quoted by, had to say about Lutz's book, which is rated at 5 stars:

"This funny, informative, and well-organized book will take you from the dating stage on up the stepparenting ladder. It helped quiet a LOT of my fears early on, and brought up many subjects for discussion. This book is exactly what I needed when I was starting out. Touches just about every subject, not always in great detail, but has a long list of resources."

Click here to order at discount.

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