Big Book Sale: Stepfamilies - Practical Help To Build A Stable, Happy Stepfamily

Posted at 13:22pm on 7th February 2015

How do you tell your children they are going to have a step-parent? How do you handle disagreements about access and money? How do you deal with past hurts and fears?

All families have their difficulties, but stepfamilies often face special problems. And with nearly a million of them in the UK, that adds up to a lot of relationships with the potential to go wrong.  However, stable, happy stepfamilies can be achieved, and this practical book, rooted in real experience, gives valuable insights into the process. Using examples of families that represent the different permutations stepfamilies can take, as well as my own personal experience, I endeavour to show how anyone involved in a stepfamily can begin to lay the foundations for success.


STEPFAMILIES (pb Lion) came about as the result of an earlier book I’d written (now out of print) titled Second Marriage. Although books on marriage proliferated, there was very little, at the time, on the complexities of merging two or more families. Time and again, in the days when I was counselling, the people I was seeing could trace their problems back to the interpersonal relationships which had come about as a result of one or more marriages or partnerships. And yet, as an author, I could see that nothing was being done to address the issues raised. Even now, there is a tendency to view second and subsequent marriages as an aberration; a modern phenomenon. Yet it’s perfectly clear from social history (Henry VIII and his many wives) and from literature (Dickens, Jane Austen etc.) that although divorce was less of an issue, the stepfamily was a normal aspect of the social spectrum. It arose when women died in child birth and fathers remarried; or, indeed if a widow was fortunate enough to attract the attention of another man!

Having, myself, had to grapple with the – I won’t say difficulties, rather, peculiarities – of a second marriage, I wanted STEPFAMILIES to be a practical guide rather than an academic study. Consequently, the topics covered vary enormously: from the name a child feels comfortable using for a step parent, to the choice of whether to have individual or joint bank accounts; from access with and attitudes towards an estranged parent, to the making of Wills; and from whose home you choose to live in, to the advent of additional children in the family unit.


Not all of these matters were relevant to my experience, of course. So I interviewed other families – daughters and their resident stepmothers; fathers whose children visited infrequently and whose presence caused tensions with a second wife or subsequent children; teenagers who found the concept of affection for the step parent a betrayal of their biological parent. I also drew heavily on other writings: reports from the Families Policies Study Centre, for instance; the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, or the Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cambridge University. Even the Biblical perspective of family life had relevance in some contexts. All such contributions are couched in everyday, layman’s language or, where direct quotes are used, I have endeavoured to explain them.


In addition, I have included a comprehensive index – e.g. Step-parent – as confidant, page 121; jealousy of, page 47; naming, page 61 – because above all, I want STEPFAMILIES to be a readable, researchable tool to help those living out the realities of these complex, interpersonal relationships; to assist them in turning round a difficult, potentially damaging situation into something that is stable and sustainable. Even, I hope, into something as enriching as my own experience.

My intention has been to produce a book which is a superstore of DIY (Do It Yourself) relationship-building skills and techniques.  I hope that you will find it of use.


Publication of the book made a huge impact on my life, as well as on my readers.  Speaking engagements which had previously amounted to perhaps a dozen a year around the country, suddenly mushroomed, so that in one year, I was speaking, on average, once a fortnight. Radio and TV producers invited me to participate in chat shows, phone-ins, debates with serious journalists on the panel, or interviews by celebrity-status agony aunts. I was told, at one radio broadcast, that I was ‘a natural’. But with my eyes closed to induce an imaginary image of the person I was talking to (I hate the telephone) I knew myself to be a writer for a reason. The printed word – whether I’m taking it in through reading or giving out in writing – is definitely my preferred means of communication. That doesn’t mean, of course, that when asked I can’t rise to the challenge of addressing an audience – whether seen or unseen!  The book continues to attract a huge amount of media interest, most recently on the Caroline Martin Show on Radio West Midlands.




Your Comments:

Misty Arlington
14th October 2015
at 1:25pm
Wow, thank you for this blog post! I will have to get a copy of the book and read it cover to cover. It is so great to know that there are books and resources out there for families who are struggling with their blended family. How do you feel about step parent adoption? I am considering the idea and found a website called where I have been researching the topic. Let me know what you think! Thanks again!

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