New Stepfamily Insights: Our Special Interview With Patricia L. Papernow, PhD by Claudette Chenevert
There are several questions stepmoms have asked me over the years. They include:
◃ “Why won’t my stepkids listen to me?”
◃ “Will I ever feel included in this family?”
◃ “What can I do differently to create a happy family?”
It seems that, as stepmoms, we have this dream of coming together and being one, big, happy family. I recently had the privilege of talking with Patricia L. Papernow, PhD, about her latest book “Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships: What Works and What Doesn’t.”
We discussed recently updated stepfamily statistics. I asked her about disciplining the stepkids. And I gleaned some tips on what works and what doesn’t, as we strive to develop close stepfamily ties. I also learned that—although the Pew Research Center notes that 42 percent of all American adults find themselves in stepfamily relationships— education is still lacking.
There aren’t many programs out there which teach us how to maintain the health and well-being of stepfamily structures. As a result, Papernow explained, very few clinicians ever receive or are able to actively pursue formal training in stepfamily dynamics.
“Do you know how many programs teach … psychologists and social workers about stepfamily dynamics?” she asked me. “Almost none. That includes family therapy training programs. So, people go for help and get bad advice.”
Yet, she said, it’s critical that care professionals gain a better understanding of what’s actually helpful and what’s liable to do more harm than good. Even fewer programs exist within stepfamily circles, forcing many to turn to the Internet to fill that void.
“There is so much more awareness about stepfamilies,” Papernow said, of the advent of the Internet and the fact that stepmoms turn to Twitter, Facebook, Google, blogs and websites for answers to their most pressing questions.
“A lot of the information, although very well-meaning, is misleading.”
Over time, she has even modified her own views on what works and what doesn’t.
“I’ve learned a lot since I wrote my first book,” she explained. “I think about stepfamilies differently now.”
Papernow and others are working hard to increase the quality, quantity and applicability of the advice that is readily available to stepfamilies. Here, you’ll learn more about what she thinks about disciplining the stepkids, presenting a unified front (or not!) and solving problems which are unique to the stepfamily experience.
We’ll delve into topics like middle ground, blending and the many, culturally rich definitions of family—looking for ways you can use new strategies to solve long-standing problems. …To read the rest of this article log in to your account and download the April 2016 issue. Don’t have an account? Click here to subscribe.