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Interesting Statistics on Stepfamilies

Author Note:

Susan Philips received a Teaching Credential from the University of California at Irvine and
a Masters Degree in Journalism from the University of Southern California. She is a Senior Consultant for the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF), a national citizenship and law educational organization. She works with school districts nationally to promote civic education strategies and curriculum. She also
consults with the LACER after school Hollywood Stars, an organization that promotes arts and literacy in middle schools in Los Angeles.
She provides training and technical assistance to the dozens of instructors who work with the program. Susan lives in Los Angeles with her husband Art. Her son and stepchildren live
close by. This is her first book.

Stepchildren Speak: 10 Grown-up Stepchildren Teach Us How to Build Healthy Stepfamilies

SCS coverListen to the Voices of Stepchildren

Millions of Americans live in stepfamilies. In fact, over half of all American families are stepfamilies with “your kids, my kids, and (sometimes) our kids” incorporated into the family unit. We see stepfamilies of all kinds everywhere we look.

But this meshing of individuals and all the emotional and physical trappings they carry is not easy. In fact, every stepfamily, regardless of race or economic level, will encounter problems, some so serious they can destroy marriages and scar children. Families in this painful process of melding a family unit from disparate parts seek practical advice.

Stepchildren Speak: 10 Grown-up Stepchildren Teach us How to Build Healthy Stepfamilies by Susan Philips takes a whole new approach to the problem. Unlike most authors on the subject, Philips decided to ask the children (now adults) who had lived through a stepfamily experience, some serious questions: How did your stepfamily function? What helped? What hurt? How has the experience affected your life? What can parents, stepparents, children, and even grandparents do to help a family resolve the difficulties that inevitably arise?

Of the hundreds of adult stepchildren who stood in line to tell their stories, Philips took dozens to lunch and then selected a “representative” ten to interview in depth. Who are they? To begin with, they are all in their late 20’s and early 30’s, able to look back on their experience with some insight and perspective. They come from different parts of the country, socio economic classes, sexual orientations and ethnicities. Six are female and four are males. Seven are Anglo, two Hispanic and one African American. They come from Puerto Rico, Colorado, Minnesota and California. Seven were under five when their parents divorced, and three were adolescents. They are a diverse lot. Yet while their experiences are different, while their backgrounds are different, they nonetheless came to similar conclusions about what it takes to build healthy stepfamilies.

Their stories are poignant and their wisdom profound. Some quotes from the stepchildren in the book:

Sophia, “There was a point in my life where I loved him [stepfather] more than my own father. He was there to wake me for school, to check in with me to see how I was feeling, to find out who I was. He was there. He was my daddy.”

Sebastian, “I am trying to grow into a healthy adult and these things affect you. When you are a child, who makes you feel that you are worth something, who makes you feel important?”

Julie, “In general I didn’t rock the boat with either stepparent. I didn’t intentionally want to annoy or disappoint them because I knew my mom and dad really loved and cared about them. I wanted everyone to be happy.”

Kate, “Donald [stepfather] made my mom choose between him and me and what did he think she would do? So he moved out.”

Sam, “You shouldn’t say, ‘Your lousy lay-about dad isn’t here, but I’m here.’ You can’t build yourself up by putting down the other. It’s not like a pie that you have to divide; the pie can get bigger.”

Maya, “My relationship with my father is a check folded into a card at Christmas and on my birthday.”

At the end of each story, they offer advice specifically directed to each of the groups involved: parents, stepparents, and stepchildren. What does divorce and remarriage mean to the children caught in between, and how can parents make the transition in their own family as painless as possible? Everyone involved, grandparents included, will find answers in this book. 

Jeanette Lofas, President of Stepfamily Foundation, Inc In New York City, says, “This is a vital book! At last we hear from the children who are so impacted by divorce and remarriage. We must listen to their voices.”


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