Stepparenting: Deciding on a Family Living Style

Decide what family life means to you when moving in with your partner and his or her family.

When you move in with a parent, you are taking on the role (in at least some ways) of a stepparent. It's vital that you start defining what that role and your idea of family life mean to you. I go into depth about this in Defining Your Role as a Stepparent.

Here is an exercise for you to do as a couple so that you can begin establishing a meeting of the minds on family life issues. Sometime, preferably before you move in together, sit alone or together and try thinking about and completing the following statements and questions. (This exercise is adapted from Ruth-Ann Clurman's book, Parenting the Other Chick's Eggs). Write your thoughts down.

    The most important part of raising a family is….

    The worst thing about my Ex was….

    The best thing about being a parent is….

    The worst thing about being a parent is….

    The best thing about my upbringing was….

    The worst thing about my upbringing was….

    It is important to me to celebrate birthdays by….

    It is important to me to celebrate holidays by….

    The manners I feel it's important for kids to have are….

    My approach to discipline is….

    My feelings about the importance of religion in my life and my family's life are….

    My four most important moral values are….

    I believe in handling conflict by….

    What I want most from my family life is….

    The things that I want to change in our family dynamics are….

    The things that I want to keep the same in our family dynamics are….

After you've both completed these statements, spend some time together comparing notes. You are working toward the design of a new home life together. What kinds of things are you discovering about yourselves? About each other? (To help you with this, read The Nine Steps to Stepfamily Success.)

Now work together to finish the statements below. This may take some time. Don't be impatient—I'm talking about the very basic parts of life. And don't feel discouraged if you don't have complete agreement right away. That doesn't mean you are incompatible, you hate each other, or that your love is wilting on the vine like unwatered tomatoes in the heat of summer. The important thing is to keep talking, and keep working on it. It's better to understand where you disagree than to pretend that you don't.

    Our family's four most important moral values are….

    What we want most from my family life is….

    We will celebrate birthdays by….

    We will celebrate holidays by….

    The manners important to our family are….

    Our approach to discipline is….

    Religion in our family is….

    We will handle conflict by….

Look at you! You've just created a family manifesto, of sorts. As Winnie the Pooh says, “The more you know (tiddly pom), the more you grow (tiddly pom).”

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