Positively Paula

Stepfamily Support Groups: Definitely Worth a Try

Wednesday, August 18, 2010
If you are in a stepfamily, there have probably been at least a few times when you wish you had some extra support outside of your circle of family and friends to help you with challenging stepfamily dynamics. Have you ever considered participating in a stepfamily support group? If not, why?

Contrary to what some people may picture, support groups aren't always comprised of grieving people sitting in a circle crying their eyes out with tissues and a counselor. Support groups are basically "a gathering of people who share a common health concern or interest," according to "Support Groups: Make Connections, Get Help," by The Mayo Clinic staff.

Check out the Mayo Clinic staff's article to better understand the benefits of support groups and how to find one. You can read about questions to ask before joining a group, support group red flags, and how to get the most out of a support group experience.

 If you are averse to stepfamily counseling, I encourage you to check out a support group.  It is a place to share ideas, discuss problems and solutions, and such groups can be great sources of hope and inspiration.

My husband and I attended a stepfamily support group early in our marriage and that experience provided us a lot of hope when we faced some tough times. It was encouraging to listen to people who had been remarried for over 20 years as they reassured us that they, too, faced and more importantly, made it through rough spots such as ours.

If you don't feel like talking in a support group, you don't have to. In a support group I facilitated for families of children with Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, we often had expert guest speakers who fielded questions and answers. This format could work in stepfamily support groups, too. You could invite a family law attorney to discuss joint custody issues, or a school counselor to talk about how the school and co-parents can better partner to ensure their children thrive in school as well as in two homes.

For stepmothers, stepfathers, and biological parents, I recommend a free national stepfamily (call-in) support group that is hosted by Yaffa Balsam, a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in CA. I think she has a great idea with this group. At the very least, it is a great way to see if a stepfamily support group is for you. I listened in to her group on August 16, 2010, and I thought the discussion was helpful, informative, and inspiring.

No one cried that I know of.  I challenge you to try it at least once. And, if you have been happily remarried for years, perhaps you can share your wisdom and experience with others who may just be starting out.

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