Almost all of the skills required for modern living need to be taught. Taught by our parents, peers, educational establishment or the huge myriad of people we meet and the experiences we share in. The blended family is no different. In fact conflict in blended families is much higher than first-time families. Luckily, there are plenty of blended family books out there to help.
This blended family of yours (and mine) is not going to be happy on its own. It takes trial and error and error (did I already say error?). Also work, lots of hard work. And learning. It’s also likely that we grew up in a first marriage family so we didn’t learn anything about blended families from there either.
That means it’s up to you to do the learning.
I guess that’s why you are here on this website reading this right?
This website is my rallying call to all of you blenders out there that you can’t just sit and wait for it to happen to you – take some action! Embrace some change, better yourself for your family and your family will be better for it.
The books I have curated for you below will bring about real change and growth for you and your family. Give yourself a different perspective. Help yourself with ways to tackle your own thoughts and actions. You owe it to you and your family to provide a dependable toolkit that encourages growth and fosters love in your blended family.
1: Building Love Together in Blended Families
The first book is by 2 heavyweights.
Gary Chapman is the #1 best selling author of “The 5 Love Languages” series of books and is a trained counsellor. Ron Deal is widely considered an expert on blended families and has written many books on the subject already. Ron is also a licensed marriage and family therapist.
If you haven’t already guessed this book is a fairly big deal. The book aims to bring together Gary’s “5 Languages of Love” concept and apply it to the blended family with Ron’s extensive knowledge of the blended family.
I am 16% (thanks Kindle!) of the way through and already I have a page of notes. It’s perhaps telling that this early on I’m starting to look at the inner workings and relationships of my own blended family quite differently. My takeaways from the first 40 pages are:
- that good parents don’t seek the approval of the kids and are consequently better at setting boundaries
- the notion of insider and outsider relationships within the family – I am an outsider in relation to Nicky and my stepdaughters, they are all insiders to each other
- Insiders have a far greater understanding of any nuance in tone or body language that is behind an outburst or sharp comment that reveals something else might be wrong rather than just misbehaving
Blended families are filled with grief and loss. Your step and biological children might be grieving for the family they lost. Your stepchildren might not want to even receive the love that you are giving, let alone give it back. Gary and Ron look at how love can be applied in these cases and discuss how to balance the range of emotion in modern blended family life.
The dynamics of a blended family vary greatly from that of a biological family, so giving and receiving love is not as easy as it may seem. In Building Love Together in Blended Families you’ll find strategies to care for yourself, your children, and your new marriage. Merging lives is challenging, but thoughtful hearts and commitment to learning will lay a foundation for your blended family to grow together.Building Love Together in Blended Families
You can find Building Love Together in Blended Families on Amazon now.
2: The Stepfamily Handbook
This book takes us from the dating stage of a new blended relationship right through to meeting the children and moving in together.
It’s a fantastic stage-by-stage guide to not only forming a blended family that is primed for a successful and happy future, but also how to deal with problems in families that are already formed.
The advice of the two extremely well-respected authors is sensible and memorable. Karen Bonnell has many years of experience of working with families facing transition, loss, growth and change. Dr Patricia Papernow is widely recognized as one of the world’s foremost experts on “blended families”. She is in her fourth decade of working with, learning about, and teaching others about stepfamily relationships.
Successful stepfamilies build one step at a time. Step-by-step guidance for how to introduce children to a dating partner and pace positive engagement between partners and kids, and kids with kids.The Stepfamily Handbook
The writing is conversational, child-focused and accessible. There are plenty of gentle, but firm reminders to slow down and to be patient. Dr Papernow’s own research has shown that the average blended family needs 5 to 7 years to merge and form a shared family identity.
Yup, that’s right. 5 to 7 years.
In the meantime, there are plenty of things you can be doing today to be in the best position your family can be.
3: The Step-Parents Parachute
Described as transformative and a revelation, this book is a real rollercoaster ride.
It lays bare the darkest corners of a step-parents emotions – guilt, jealousy and resentment and holds an uncomfortable mirror up to your own feelings towards your step-children. Ultimately bringing you to the realisation that without facing these issues you cannot hope to build a safe, loving family.
Filled with no-nonsense advice from her own personal blended family journey, Flora McEvedy is honest and refreshingly British in her outlook.
It provides a toolkit for the blended family to work as a team, with “the four cornerstones” sticking in your mind long after the book has been put down.
The Step-parents’ Parachute will endow the reader with a body of instantly accumulated knowledge. Neatly organised, easy to use, practical and positive, this inspirational book will offer a path through a subject riven with negative assumptions and enable the transformation of the step-family into a happy, rewarding and stable family home.The Step-Parents Parachute
The book has been said to appeal mainly to step-mums but I would say the book is extremely useful for anyone in a blended family. Be you male/female, biological or step-parent this book is sure to strike some chords.
It’s not all doom and gloom, the book reassures you that what you are feeling and thinking is perfectly normal. It can be a real comfort when you find someone you can relate too if you feel like no-one else around you understands your situation. It doesn’t pull any punches regarding the challenges or effort required to make it work, but its a positive source of advice and inspiration.
It’s a must-read for any blended family parent.
You can buy Step-Parents Parachute right here.
4: Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships
For the second time in this list, here is a book by Dr Patricia Papernow. Did I mention that she really knows her stuff?
Drawn from 30 years of clinical work, the latest research and the stories of ordinary blended families, Dr Papernow sets about describing the 5 challenges that a blended family structure creates for intimate relationships.
The book is written with compassion, warmth and is accessible to all. In fact, the book is aimed at both members of blended families and professionals and clinicians who are working with blended families. This is the only book I have found that really explores the differences between a wide variety of blended families.
Papernow also explores the similarities and differences in African-American and Latino stepfamilies, stepfamilies headed by LGBT couples, and later life-stage recouplers with adult children.Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships
Not only is it filled with, and backed up by, all the relevant research it is authoritative, clear, well-written and full of practical advice.
Don’t just take my word for it:
Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships is the best clinical book ever written on the topic. Period.Alan S. Gurman, PhD, visiting professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
Written by a pioneer in the field who is in her fourth decade of studying and treating stepfamilies, it is a remarkable achievement filled with wisdom both for those who help stepfamilies and for those who live in themRichard Schwartz, PhD, developer of the Internal Family Systems model
You can find Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships here.
5: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
This is a bit of a “bonus” book. It’s not directly about blended or step-families. I have read countless books over the past 5 years. This has had the biggest impact on me. Period.
If you are anything like me then you have had lots of crap happen to you. Sometimes it feels like its every day!
I didn’t have a child with someone expecting to have to deal with the breakdown of that relationship. I have gone through that twice now. The second time with courts and divorce and everything that goes with it.
It was shit.
Most relationship breakdowns are.
Most blended families are started with some of its members not even wanting the new family. They want their old family back. Once you sprinkle in some “normal” life shit like cars that keep breaking down, the roof you just know is going to start leaking the next storm you get and serious illness or even death and blended families have their work cut out for them.
Life is always going to pile shit on to you.
This book teaches you that it’s ok. That life is like that and it isn’t about turning lemons into lemonade, it’s actually about being better equipped to stomach lemons.
Once we embrace our fears, faults and uncertainties – once we stop running from and avoiding, and start confronting painful truths- we can begin to find the courage and confidence we desperately seek.The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck
This is a sweary, funny look at life. At its core, Mark is telling us that without suffering we can’t achieve anything worthwhile. The pain of failure makes you better.
Smooth seas don’t make good sailors.
Our struggles determine our success.
Mark’s insights are counter-intuitive but all the more powerful for it. Focus your energy on the things that matter the most. Reframe your perception and you will improve your happiness just by looking at things from a different perspective.
The biggest revelation for me?
I stopped giving a fuck about what my youngest son’s teacher/doctor/family member on his mum’s side thinks of me. Who knows what they have been told by my ex-wife. She told anyone that would listen to her anything to make me look like a monster.
I chose to focus on what my son thinks about me. I chose to channel all that effort that I was wasting on caring what everyone else thought into being a Dad. The best one I can be. Instead of hiding away from these people, scared of what the might think about me, I chose to meet them. Find out how my son is doing, find out what I could be doing better and start doing it. I have nothing to hide.
In 40 years time, I won’t know any of those other people, I’ll still know my son. Unless I’m dead. Either way, I want him to know he was one of the biggest fucks I gave.
You can buy this brilliant book here. And explain what it’s about to your children when you accidentally leave it on the side!
Close – 5 superb Blended Family Books
That’s it. 5 curated books that every parent in a blended family should read. Make a commitment to better yourself and your family today.
- Building Love Together in Blended Families
- The Stepfamily Handbook
- The Step-Parents Parachute
- Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
I’d love to hear from you if you have read any of these books – what did you like? what didn’t you like? What changed your life?
Do you have any false beliefs that are preventing your blended family from being a success? Do you feel you can even commit to reading a book right now?
Let me know in the comments below.