Psychological Self-Help

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the external world. It is parental conflict that causes problems
for the remaining 20% of kids, not divorce or remarriage. The
ongoing fighting and/or the loss of contact with one biological
parent are the major sources of problems. The biological
parents must continue to cooperate closely with each other (in
a civil, uncritical manner) in the parenting of their children. The
custodial parent can't just take over all the child care and
discipline (and neither should the step-parent try to do this). In
particular, the step-parent must, for several years, stay out of
discipline and thoroughly support the continued parenting by
both biological parents of the child; the child needs one-on-one
time with both parents. Divided loyalty between warring
parents (who are sharing their love with newcomers) is usually
hell for children. 
Some therapists have suggested that girls, especially adolescent
daughters, have more problems being a step-child than boys do. Often
girls have played a central role in running the household before the
addition of a new step-parent; the addition of another adult into the
family creates role and status conflicts and confusion. When mother
acquires a new husband, who often gets a lot of attention, the
daughter may resent the intruder and have a lot of conflicts with the
mother for at least a couple of years. If the new male will play
basketball with the son, things may be okay. When father brings home
a new lover, this too may be a more stressful situation for a daughter
than for a son. Any open display of affection and hints of sexuality
between a parent and step-parent seems to create more discomfort for
daughters than sons. A boy may, of course, have a difficult time at
first with a step-parent, but he soon settles in and has no more
aggression problems than boys in intact families. The family dynamics
can become very complex and may require therapy. Certainly, parents
and step-parents should be ever watchful for difficulties and quick to
address problems in "family conferences." 
Because it is such a common and difficult problem, more and more
is being written about remarrying and step-parenting. A Web site is
which features the writings and audiotapes of Dr. Jeannette Lofas.
Likewise, the Vishers (Visher & Visher, 1982), founders of the
Stepfamily Association of America, have written a guide to step-
parenting primarily for counselors but self-helpers could profit from it.
Other texts recommended by professional counselors (Santrock,
Minnett & Campbell, 1994) are about the general pitfalls in second
marriages (Janda & MacCormack,1991; Einstein & Albert, 1986). Good
general discussions of step-parenting are in Booth & Dunn (1994),
Newman (1994), Dinkmeyer, McKay & McKay (1988), Martin & Martin
(1985), Krantzler (1977), and Nobel & Nobel (1977). Specifically,
blended families are the focus in Bernstein (1990) and Eckler
(1988), step-mothering in Prilik (1988) and Clubb (1991), and step-
fathering in Rosin (1987). A couple of books are for children in a
step-family (Blakeslee, Fassler & Lash, 1993; Fassler, Lash, & Ives,
1989; Evans, 1988). I suggest you contact the Stepfamily Association
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