Book Reviews

Stepping Together: Creating Strong Stepfamilies

by John and Emily Visher
Review by Margorie Engel

Did you know it has been estimated that by the year 2010 there will be more remarriage families than any other type of family in the United States? That means a lot of people are already in need of information, support, and advice in order to successfully manage their daily lives.

Most people have no accurate view about the pleasures and obligations that come with a remarriage. They pay little attention to laws or psychology as they form new relationships. With preconceived notions about "how things should be," remarried couples and their children often find themselves requiring increasing knowledge about the world of stepfamilies.

Our debt of gratitude to Emily and John Visher continues to grow. It is not enough to simply create a vision; one must also provide the means to enable that vision. Not content to rest on their laurels as the founders of the Stepfamily Association of America and as the authors of numerous professional books on stepfamily life, the Visher team has just completed an updated Stepping Together program. It is anchored in today's social realities.

Stepping Together provides the essential information which research has proven is so helpful to stepfamilies during the earlier phases of integration. We are always confronted by the gap between what we know from a life in the past and what we want to know about the world of remarriage. Since it isn't simple or uncomplicated, you can get a handle on stepfamily life by looking to Stepping Together for information, proposals, solutions, and concrete ways to fix things. A number of authors do make concrete suggestions, but often fail to present strategic recommendations about how these can be achieved in the current charged stepfamily arena. The trailblazing Visher stepfamily has put notches in the trees so others can follow.

Many of the cartoons that spice Emily and John's seminar and conference presentations are sprinkled throughout this work designed to create strong stepfamilies. Some of them remind us that there are many kinds of stepfamilies such as those formed by a divorce or a death, those where both adults have had children from prior relationships, those in which only the women, or only the man, has had children, and stepfamilies with myriad child custody arrangements. However, because it would be quite cumbersome, the book doesn't continually acknowledge all the variability by the vocabulary used. It does call to your attention the situations, emotions, and suggestions that are general in nature and can be translated by you to apply to your particular family.

Designed for approximately 12 hours of group meetings, Stepping Together covers such topics as Recognizing Stepfamily Myths, Navigating the Emotional Journey, Strengthening the Couple Connection, Understanding the Children, and Working Across Households. It is a richly detailed picture of stepfamily life and the strategies necessary to strengthen it. A Leader's Manual is available for those wishing to lead educational groups. However, the Participants Manual is sold separately and can also be helpful to families when no course is available. The design of the material is flexible enough to be adapted for larger groups and differing time frames.

As always, Emily and John remind us that many times after a remarriage, the adults become so involved in trying to create "one big happy family" that they forget it was because of their relationship that they got married in the first place. "Solidifying and nourishing your couple relationship is of the utmost importance, not only for the two of you, but also for your children. They need the model of a couple that works together to give them ideas for their ideas for their own couple relationship in the future." The Vishers continue by pointing out that a united couple then is able to work together to meet the important and challenging needs of the children that arise throughout the life of the stepfamily.

If you feel as if you are putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle for which you only have a few pieces, don't just muddle through. Reach for Stepping Together and let Emily and John clue you in.

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