Perceived Benefits of Stepfamily Education. Linda Skogrand, PhD Rachel Arrington, R.A. Paul Larsen, R.A Brian Higginbotham, PhD. The Participants. 40 participants (out of 230 adults) 30 from English-speaking classes, 10 from Spanish-speaking classes. 57% were female, 43% were male
Linda Skogrand, PhD
Rachel Arrington, R.A.
Paul Larsen, R.A
Brian Higginbotham, PhD
1) Learning with other couples (37 out of 40)
2) Improved relationships with children (34 out of 40)
3) Improved couple relationships (32 out of 40)
4) Improved stepfamily relationships (29 out of 40)
Learning from others: Although couples appreciated the content as provided by facilitators, the appreciated the help, suggestions, and advice they received from others who lived in stepfamilies
One person said, “We’d get different ideas from different couples. . . We’re learning from each other. . . a lot of the problems we were going through, they’ve already experienced.”
Felt support from other couples: Couples felt part of a selective group of families who understood the struggles and challenges of stepfamily life.
One woman said, “The first week we were okay together, but by the third week I felt like they were all my friends.”
One man said, “I don’t need to feel like I’m messed up and I’m kind of an outcast from society.”
Teaching others: Felt empowered by being able to help others
One man said, “I was able to see some of the hurt in some of the men, what they are going through, because I went through it. I could say, ‘This is what he is going through, but this is what they need to do to get out of it’. . . . I would love to help another man that is going through this because I know how hard it was for me . . . . I can’t walk with him every day, no, but I can understand what he is going through because I walked it.”
Empathy: Learned to see things from their children’s point of view; parents could see past their own struggles and gain understanding into the feelings and needs of children and stepchildren
One father said, “I’m more conscious about where my stepkids are coming from. I’m more understanding, I think, and I’m learning to be more empathetic.”
One mother said, “It’s very good for parents to know that the kids have their own set of problems that they have to go through adjusting to a forced family, a split-up family. A lot of times the parents are, I think, coping with their own struggles and problems and they’re just not even aware the kids are having some stress too, over it.”
Parenting: Having realistic expectations about building relationships with stepchildren and learning appropriate and effective disciplinary roles with stepchildren
One father said, “I think at the beginning I had jumped right into disciplining. I kind of changed her [my spouses] disciplining ways. I sure wish I could take that back . . . . Disciplining should wait for the stepparent a little longer. Sit back and watch the mother or father.”
Communication: Learning how to communicate with children and attending the course with their children contributed to improved communication
One mother said, “[The stepfamily course helped] because it opened up communication between my children and I.”
Another mother said, “I try to talk to my girls . . . and we really talk about things. I try to have a really good relationship with them, but [taking this course together] gave them an opportunity to express themselves in ways I don’t think they otherwise would have.”
Communication: Learning to communicate more openly and more positively, which led to empathy and realizing they were on the same side
One man said, “We’re communicating with each other instead of taking it as a belittling or a criticism. It’s more about these are her feelings, these are my feelings, let’s see if we can meet in the middle. So in the last two weeks it’s about a hundred percent better.”
One woman said, “My husband and I were able to take topics from the class and actually discuss them at home.”
One husband said, “I’ll listen to my wife more, you know, work together as a team and not against each other.”
Nurture the relationship: They needed a strong couple relationship to have a successful stepfamily; they needed to make time as a couple
One wife said, “We realized that it’s important to build our couple relationship as well as our family. I think that was the most important thing—that we should have our couple relationship be the most important thing and then have a happy home and make it better for our kids.”
Everyone was involved in learning: This model helped family members learn together and work together
One woman said, “Having all four of us able to attend helped us out so much more because we were all getting the same information. We were all getting the same opportunities to learn.”
One man said, “I think [the kids] were really excited about what they learned in the class, and to go home and kind of talk about it. I think it really made them feel important, like they’re part of this. We’re willing to listen to their input as far as decisions that we make as a family.”
Communication: Learning and applying communication skills together improved family relationships
One woman said, “The best part, was learning about communication between not only me and him, but me, him, and the children together as one unit.”
Time together: Spending time together as a family in the class helped them grow closer; they included children in planning activities
One woman said, “We’re actually going to set a night aside as just family night and play some games, no TV. We actually went and bought a kitchen table so we can sit as a family to eat.”
Linda Skogrand, PhD
Katie Reck, R.A.
Brian Higginbotham, PhD
Francesca Adler-Baeder, PhD
How did they hear about the course?
Why did they respond, why did they enroll?
They wanted information about stepfamilies.
One woman said, We’ve actually been looking for either step-parenting books or stepfamily classes or something. When I heard about this one I thought ‘that’s it, it’s perfect.’”
A man stated, “We set out to find information on stepfamilies, trying to learn more about what we were dealing with. At the same time, we felt like we were in a vacuum and there wasn’t anybody really to talk to.”
They also enrolled because they wanted to address challenges in their stepfamilies (children, couple, and family relationships)
One woman said, “I decided to attend because we were going through a rough patch. We’d been married just about a year and I was beginning to wonder if the year was going to be the end . . . .[I wanted] some ideas on how to cope with my stepson and how to make my marriage better and not allow our situation to destroy the relationship that I have with my husband.”
What Kept Them Coming?
One father said, “[My children] liked the activities in the nursery. They were always excited about whether they came out with a feather or whether they came out with a mask or a Fruit Loop necklace, or a bird feeder.”
One facilitator said, “What actually worked the most, I believe, were the phone calls and the thank-you notes. There were a lot of comments about just knowing that we were constantly thinking of them. It made them feel a little bit more appreciated for their time. We were always trying to add something personal, something to personalize their particular commitment to this program.”