Helpful Help for Stepparents

Resources that capture the complexity of stepfamilies and of stepparenting.

Being a stepparent can at times be stressful, daunting and lonely. There are a variety of challenges and obstacles to overcome, all of which contribute to the divorce/separation rate for step-couples being generally higher than that of “first” marriages. It is therefore crucial to make sure that you and your partner have support and realistic advice/information around issues that undermine stepfamily stability and, importantly, that encourage stepfamily success.  

But even when you know you want help, it is sometimes hard to know where to go, to find the help and advice that you actually need.

Help for stepparents, where is it?

Traditional talk therapy or engaging with a stepparent coach/mentor are great options. However, they can be expensive, and finding the time to attend regular sessions (either in-person or online) can also be difficult.  Thankfully, in addition to Stepping Through, there are a number of good, cost-effective and less intrusive alternatives to empower stepparents to manage the challenges of stepfamily life. Some of these resources aim to help start you out on your step-parenting journey. Some allow for exploration of the feelings and issues many stepparents face from a safe distance or for a bit of self-reflection. Others give you a boost when you’ve in the thick of it or provide practical and honest advice and information backed by research and/or real-life experiences. There really is something for every stepparent.

To get you started, check out our list of helpful stepparenting resources below:

Books About Step-Parenting

Step Parenting with Purpose by Karalee Katsambanis

Karalee Katsambanis is an Australian stepmother of 2 young adults and mum to 3 three children. She is someone who clearly appreciates the inevitable stresses associated with finding love with someone who already has children.  

In her newly released book, Step Parenting with Purpose, Karalee puts forward practical and common-sense advice to beat everything from managing difficult and conflicting emotions to how to engage and manage the ex, all whilst keeping children’s needs front and centre. She is clear that she is not a therapist. Her suggestions and advice are backed by many of her own real-life experiences as a stepparents and a mother. Ultimately, Karalee aims to make the reader (whoever they may be) stop, think and refrain from doing or saying unnecessary and/or unhelpful things. 

This book is an excellent resource for stepparents, their partners, and other adult family members who want information and advice in a no nonsense, honest and plain-spoken manner.

Stepparenting with Purpose by Karalee Katsambanis
The Stepfamily Handbook: From Dating, to Getting Serious, to forming a “Blended Family” by Patricia Papernow and Karen Bonnell

In The Stepfamily Handbook’, Karen Bonnell and Patricia Papernow share some empowering and practical advice, backed by research (and common sense), to guide stepparents and their partners through the highs and lows of stepfamily formation. 

Both authors have a wealth of professional experience working with couples and families facing transition, loss, growth and change. It is evident, throughout the book, that they really understand stepfamilies.

Helpfully, this book has discrete chapters which speak clearly to each stage in the development of the step couple relationship and the stepfamily. Depending upon where the reader is at in terms of their step-couple relationship, chapters can be read independently and in various order.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone in a stepfamily situation and the professionals that support them.

Stepping into a New Role, Stories from Stepmoms by Shawn Simon

Stepping into a New Role, Stories from Stepmoms is a collection of stories about being a stepparent. The stories shared by Shawn are the personal accounts of women who have experienced first-hand the good, the bad (and the ugly) of being a stepparent. The book doesn’t seek to offer advice or act as a therapeutic intervention that promises to solve all your stepfamily problems. Instead, it is a real, honest and emotive read, brimming with a breath of personal experience from real life women and written in an easily relatable and engaging way. As Shawn says, ‘it’s like a stepmom support group in writing’.

This book is a fabulous read for stepmums seeking reassurance that they are not alone; that their thoughts, feelings, behaviour and mistakes (with regard to their stepfamily and stepkids) make them human; and that being a stepmum can be simultaneously challenging, bloody difficult but also rewarding – sometimes in very unexpected ways. 

Stories From Stepmoms by Shawn Simon
Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do by Wednesday Martin

Wednesday Martin is a well-known American author and cultural critic who writes about a variety of topics including stepparenting and parenting. A stepparent herself, Wednesday has written Stepmonster in an engaging and compassionate tone, from the perspective of, and about, stepmothers.

This book is part a no-hold-barred memoir of what it is like to stepmother in the trenches, part interviews with other women with stepchildren, and part research-based analysis of why stepmothering is uniquely tough. And whilst it doesn’t talk about how to stepparent per se, it does talk about what can make stepparenting easier and provides a definitive review of the essence and challenges of being a stepmum.

We recommend this book for stepmothers wanting to develop more of an understanding of what it means to be a stepmother and of the forces at play around her – at home, in the community and in society in general.

(Note – for stepparents with poor literacy skills, dyslexia or other learning disabilities, audiobooks are a fantastic alternative).

Podcasts

  1. The Stepmom Coach Podcast is hosted by The Stepmom Coach, Claudette Chenevert. This podcast shares best tips and advice along with moments of wisdom on what stepmum’s can do to build and create stronger and healthier stepfamilies. Helpfully, Claudette has a variety of archived podcast shows on a various stepfamily issues on both apple iTunes and Spotify. She aims to produce new content every month.
  1. Spilling the Coffee and Tea by StepmomShawn & Sheila. This is a relatively new podcast. Each week Shawn and Sheila discuss the highs and lows of second marriages and step-parenting and so many other life related topics, which are of interest to stepparents.
  1. The Jamie Scrimgeour Podcast is hosted by second wife/stepmum and mum of four, Jamie Scrimgeour. Jamie described her podcast as a “raw and real conversation about all the things motherhood, step-motherhood, family, relationships and living a KICK-ASS Life”.

Other Helpful Stepparenting Resources:

  1. Stepfamilies Australia – Australian centre for stepfamily research, resources & education. Their website has various Stepfamily Tip sheets, information and resources.
  2. StepMom Magazine is an (American) monthly, online publication and support community for any woman who dates, lives with, or is married to someone who has kids from a prior relationship.
  3. The Stepfamily Summit is a free online conference that brings together leading stepfamily experts and stepparents, to share knowledge, tools and resources to help stepparents and their partners optimize their stepfamily life. The next Stepfamily Summit is scheduled for 5 – 8 May 202. Follow The Stepfamily Summit on Facebook to keep up to date with announcements and access material and information.
  4. And last but not least, my children’s book, Harriet’s Expanding Heart. Harriet’s is a picture book for children of ages 4 to 9. It helps kids to name and process the various emotions they might feel when becoming a part of a stepfamily, and is an insightful guide for parents and stepparents who want to support young children cope the transition into stepfmaily living. Tips (from a psychologist’s perspective) are included in the back of the book for parents and stepparents about how they can emotionally support their children cope and adjust to their changing family situation.
Harriet’s Expanding Heart by Rachel Brace

What resources for stepparents and stepfamilies have you found helpful in your stepfamily/stepparenting adventure?