Things You Should Know: Stepfamily Checklist

Stepfamilies are an organizational challenge. Communication is a key ingredient in the making of a stepfamily rich in connection and collaboration. It is important for adults to communicate frequently and effectively. Couples should set aside weekly times to talk. Before this meeting, each partner should set aside time to reflect on how things are going. What's bugging you? What is feeling good? Which issue do you want to discuss? Prepare for the meeting with your partner so communication can be proactive rather than reactive. When the adults are happy and clear in their thinking, the kids will have an easier time adjusting.

Adjusting To Stepfamily Life Is A Process. Use The Stepfamily Checklist As A Roadmap On Your Path Towards Rewarding Stepfamily Living:

Clarity of Roles:

  • Define your role as a stepparent.
  • Discuss stepparent role with partner.
  • Define areas of agreement and disagreement.
  • Clarify differences in parenting styles.
  • Agree on who parents who.
  • When possible, develop a co-parenting team.
  • Understand that different households have different rules, rhythms and rituals.

Clarity of Boundaries:

  • Define household rules and rituals.
  • Recognize unresolved baggage across households.
  • Discuss how unresolved issues are impacting your household.
  • Set aside regular discussion times to develop strategies for change.
  • Reflect on your need for personal time and space.
  • Be clear and negotiate for your needs.
  • Be respectful of everyone’s idiosyncrasies.

Clarity of Partnership:

  • Discuss models of marriage.
  • Define what model of marriage you want.
  • Discuss ideas on roles and responsibilities for each partner.
  • Define who does what and agree to negotiate as the partnership matures.
  • Discuss money, differences in spending and saving and past money history.
  • Define a model of money management that both partners can life with.

Clarity of Personal Needs:

  • Reflect on your need for intimacy.
  • Be clear about how much couple time is important.
  • Understand your feeling style.
  • Have a way to process intense feelings so you can be proactive rather than reactive.
  • Understand your interpersonal style and how it impacts household dynamics.
  • Reflect on how you manage anger.
  • Reflect on unresolved issues with your former partner.

Clarity of Other Family Issues:

  • Understand that partners will talk with ex-spouses to coordinate children's needs.
  • Reflect on your role in this process.
  • Reflect on how your family of origin affects you today.
  • Understand if and how this impacts your current family.
  • Discuss the rhythm of the kids moving between households and be aware of how this affects your rhythms.
  • Understand the stepfamily developmental stage you are in and how this affects family function.
  • Understand that other family issues become more intense during the holidays.
  • Discuss holiday issues ahead of time and have a plan.

Special thanks to for providing this helpful checklist for stepfamilies just starting out.



Stepfamily Solutions


The Blended Family Sourcebook: A Guide to Negotiating Change
By David S. Chedekel and Karen O’Connell


Stepcoupling: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Marriage in Today’s Blended Family
By Susan Wisdom and Jennifer Green


Stepfamily Realities: How to Overcome Difficulties and Have a Happy Family
By Margaret Newman