As anyone in a stepfamily knows, we’ve come a long way since the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales. Unfortunately, many of society’s assumptions about us haven’t changed all that much. I started this blog, because I wanted to expand the way people think about stepfamilies and provide a different kind of resource for helping them to adjust and grow.
As a stepmom and a psychologist, I’ve spent a lot of time reading books, articles and blog posts about stepfamilies and I’ve discovered that there’s a wide range of approaches out there – some offer valuable support and sound suggestions, while others provide “expert” advice that’s based more on stereotypes and outdated research, than it is on our current reality.
My goal for this blog is to provide stepfamilies with the support and skills they need to deal with some difficult situations (like a stepchild’s rejection or badmouthing from an ex-spouse), choose the advice that makes sense for their family, and decide how to help their family to move forward when there’s no clear model for the situation they’re in. I also hope to provide those who support stepfamilies with a more complete view of who they are and what you could do to better meet stepfamily needs.
Since my ideas about skillful behavior come out of my personal and professional experiences, let me tell you a bit about myself here:
I grew up in a family with one liberal and one conservative parent, which led to some pretty interesting dinner table conversations and taught me a lot about respecting different ideas. We moved every few years for my father’s job, which was tough on all of us, but ultimately increased my ability to tolerate distress, build relationships and adapt to something new. As a younger adult, I spent ten years teaching psychology and developing mental health services for children in Uganda and Egypt, which – at the risk of sounding cliché – was a life-changing experience for me.
Now, I’m married and living in New York City. My husband is a lab scientist and a technology innovator, a very supportive partner and an active and committed dad. His kids – my dear stepkids – go back and forth between our home and the home they share with their mom and stepdad, who are also devoted parents. We’ve been in each other’s lives for about seven years now, with me as “official” stepmom for the past 4 and a half.
The kind of therapy I practice is called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which I like because it’s a pretty no-nonsense, compassionate approach. I specialize in helping people who have problems with emotional sensitivity, impulsive behavior or high conflict relationships to make a skillful adjustment to a major life change (divorce, co-parenting, entering a stepfamily). I love my job and I hope that comes through in my work.
In my free time, I enjoy meditation and yoga, Latin dance, traveling with my husband, talking politics with my stepson, and listening to my stepdaughter sing. I also love putting an idea out there and hearing what others have to say, especially when we start from different vantage points and the conversation shifts all of our views.
I’m looking forward to connecting with you here, reading your comments, and having a real conversation about how we can best support stepfamilies – as well as how we all can keep life on track, enhance our experience, and move through difficult circumstances with some degree of grace and skill.