The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family [NOOK Book]


Ron Deal explodes the myth of the "blended" family as he provides practical, realistic solutions to the issues that stepfamilies face. He helps remarried and soon-to-be married couples

Recognize the unique personality and place of each family member
Solve the everyday ...
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The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family

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Ron Deal explodes the myth of the "blended" family as he provides practical, realistic solutions to the issues that stepfamilies face. He helps remarried and soon-to-be married couples

Recognize the unique personality and place of each family member
Solve the everyday puzzles of stepparenting and stepchildren relationships
Learn communication skills to deal with ex-spouses
Honor families of origin while developing new traditions
Invest the time to grow their stepfamily slowly rather than look for instant results
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585588251
  • Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/1/2006
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 943,565
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Ron L. Deal is Founder and President of As For Me And My House Ministries, LLC and Successful Stepfamilies, an organization that empowers stepfamilies for healthy living and equips churches to minister to the unique needs of stepfamilies. He is author of the book "The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family" and creator/presenter of the "Building A Successful Stepfamily" seminar. Currently Ron is serving as Stepfamily Educational Consultant to Focus on the Family.

Ron is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Licensed Professional Counselor, and a member of the Stepfamily Association of America's Advisory Council and Institute Faculty. Ron and his wife Nan are also members of the National Advisory Board for The Association of Marriage and Family Ministries.

Ron's national radio appearances to address the needs of stepfamilies include "Focus on the Family" (and numerous FOTF broadcasts), "FamilyLife Today," "HomeWord" with Dr. Jim Burns, "America's Family Coaches" with Dr. Gary & Barbara Rosberg, "Live the Life" with AACC president Dr. Tim Clinton, "Josh McDowell radio," and many others. National TV appearances include "Reality Talks" with Dr. Kevin Leman, "A New Harvest," and "At Home Live," and "100 Huntley Street" in Canada. He has written feature family and ministry articles addressing a variety of family matters for a number of publications and online magazines.

On a regular basis Ron trains family ministry professionals at the Association of Marriage & Family Ministries conferences and has spoken at the National Stepfamily Conference, the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference, the national Smart Marriages, Happy Families conference, and the Utah and Arkansas Governors' conferences on the family. He and his wife, Nan, and their sons live in Arkansas.
Ron is a marriage and family author, speaker, and therapist. He is Founder and President of Smart Stepfamilies and Director of Blended Family Ministries for FamilyLife. Ron is author of The Smart Stepfamily, The Smart Stepdad, and Dating and the Single Parent, and coauthor with Laura Petherbridge of The Smart Stepmom and with David H. Olson of The Remarriage Checkup. Ron is a licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed professional counselor who frequently appears in the national media including FamilyLife Today, Focus on the Family, HomeWord, and The 700 Club. He's also been interviewed by Ladies Home Journal, New York Daily News, WGN-TV and

He is a popular conference speaker and his video series The Smart Stepfamily DVD is used in communities, churches, and homes throughout the world. Ron is a member of the Stepfamily Expert Council for the National Stepfamily Resource Center and is a featured expert on the video curriculum Single and Parenting. Ron and his wife, Nan, and their sons live in Little Rock, Arkansas. For more information, visit and
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Table of Contents

Introduction 11
Headed for the Promised Land!
1. Through Wilderness Wanderings 17
2. Key Stepping-Stones 33
Seven Steps in the Journey
3. Smart Step One: STEP Up! Discover a redemptive God who loves, forgives, and provides strength and direction for the journey 51
4. Smart Step Two: STEP Down Adjust your expectations and learn how to cook a stepfamily 61
5. Smart Step Three: Two-Step Your marriage must be top priority 76
6. Smart Step Four: Step in Line (Part 1) With the parenting team 101
7. Smart Step Four: Step in Line (Part 2) Parent and stepparent roles 140
8. Smart Step Five: Side Step The pitfalls common to stepfamilies 164
9. Smart Step Six: Step Through The wilderness: Overcoming special challenges 193
10. Smart Step Seven: Step Over Into the Promised Land: Stories of those who are making it 214
11. Smart Questions, Smart Answers 230
A Message to the Church
12. Ministering to Stepfamilies 251
Appendix A Medical Permission to Treat Minor Child 263
Resources for Stepfamilies and Churches 264
Endnotes 266
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Have you ever tried to put together a 3-D jigsaw puzzle without instructions and without a picture on the box to show you what the final product should look like? Try adding a blindfold. Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? In fact, it doesn’t even sound fun to try. Attempt to combine members of two (or more) different households and you’ll encounter similar frustrations.

Putting together or integrating a stepfamily is one of the most difficult tasks for any family in America today. Integration involves combining two unique family styles, various personalities and preferences, differing traditions, pasts, and loyalties. Yet most people make the decision to bring two families together without consulting the instructions (i.e., God’s Word) or developing a shared image of the final product (the picture on the jigsaw puzzle box). Blinded with a well-intentioned ignorance, couples march down the aisle a second or third time, only to discover that the building process is much more difficult than they anticipated—and the rewards are few and far between, especially in the beginning. But the odds of your success increase dramatically when you take off your blindfold and see a picture of how a healthy stepfamily looks and acts.


The purpose of this book is to give you just that—a healthy picture of a successful Christian stepfamily based on God’s instruction manual. And believe it or not, it can be done if you work smarter, not harder. Working smarter means understanding the dynamics of stepfamily life and development, and making intentional decisions about how you will grow together emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.

If you are currently married and perhaps finding that your three-dimensional puzzle is depending on a fragile foundation, read this book with an eye for what you can change. Once you’ve developed concrete ideas for putting the pieces of your family together, begin working the plan cautiously but with much determination. You’ll be amazed at God’s power to heal your heartaches and turn your unstable or crumbling puzzle into an edifice that is safe, beautiful, and built on a firm foundation.

If you are currently single, divorced, or widowed and are considering marriage, and if one or both of you have children, you’ve turned to the right source. There are many hidden challenges in stepfamily life, and you need to be as prepared as you possibly can. Taking off your blindfold and seeing clearly the journey ahead is the best choice you can make.

If blending is not the goal, then how do you cook a stepfamily? < I recommend a Crockpot cooking style. Stepfamilies choosing this style understand that time and low heat make for an effective combination. Ingredients are thrown together in the same pot, but each is left intact, giving affirmation to its unique origin and characteristics. Slowly and with much intentionality, the low-level heat brings the ingredients into contact with one another. As the juices begin to flow together, imperfections are purified, and the beneficial, desirable qualities of each ingredient are added to the taste. The result is a dish of delectable flavor made up of different ingredients that give of themselves to produce a wondrous creation.

The key to Crockpot stepfamilies is time and low heat. I’ve already stressed the importance of being patient with the integration process and not trying to force love, care, or togetherness; perhaps you’ve noticed that the one common element of the food processor, microwave, pressure cooker, and blender integration styles is an attempt to quickly combine the various ingredients (people, rituals, and backgrounds). Such an effort almost always backfires, bringing a backlash of anger and resentment.

Stepfamilies need time to adjust to new living conditions, new parenting styles, rules, and responsibilities. They need time to experience one another and develop trust, commitment, and a shared history. They need time to find a sense of belonging and an identity as a family unit. None of these things can be rushed. People who are trying to prove to their parents, friends, church, minister, or themselves that their remarriage decision was right for everyone, need their family to "blend" quickly. But they are often greatly disappointed and feel like failures. A slow-cooking mentality, however, brings relief from the pressure to show everyone you can get along because you assume from the beginning that it will likely take years for your stepfamily to integrate. It also invites you to relax in the moment and enjoy the small steps your stepfamily is making toward integration, rather than pressuring family members to move ahead.

Cooking with low heat refers to your gradual, intentional efforts to bring the parts together. It is working smarter, not harder. To illustrate the Crockpot mentality at work, let me apply some Crockpot approaches to the previous examples of what not to do.

A Crockpot stepfather, as opposed to the blender stepfather, would not worry excessively about why he isn’t bonding with his teenage stepdaughter or assume he and the kids should all blend to the same degree. Slow-cook stepparents understand the cardinal rule of relationship development with stepchildren: Let the stepchild set the pace for the relationship. If she is receiving of the stepfather, let him return the child’s affections. If she remains distant or standoffish, he shouldn’t force himself upon her. Find ways of managing rules and getting through life (see chapter 8), but don’t insist a child welcome your authority or physical affection.

The food processor adults had a similar struggle. They hoped the children would want to refer to their new stepparent with a term of endearment. When this didn’t happen naturally, the food processor parents demanded they do so. But a Crockpot adult would understand (even while wishing it were otherwise) that a stepparent can be "daddy" to his youngest stepchild, "James" to his next oldest, and "Mr. James" to the teenager. Crockpot stepfamilies recognize the emotional and psychological attachment children have to biological parents and don’t force them to change those attachments.

The microwave-turned-Crockpot mother will accept that her husband will struggle to respond fairly to her children. As a Crockpot mom, the formerly frustrated pressure cooker mom will not immediately respond with anger to her son who is uncooperative with his stepfather. She will look past his oppositional behavior to see a boy who is struggling with loss, unable to connect with his biological father, and discouraged with his family circumstances. And Paul, the pressure cooker stepfather who tried to meld two Christmas traditions, would allow his stepfamily to develop an entirely new Christmas tradition. He and his wife, for example, might have a series of family meetings with the children to discuss their preferences and wants. It may be they decide on an entirely new tradition to honor each family’s history by alternating how gifts are opened, or they may decide to let each parent and their children keep their own tradition.

This last idea refers to "mini-family" activities. Early in a stepfamily’s integration process it can be helpful to maintain separate family traditions and rituals by giving parents permission to spend time with their children without the step relations present. Stepparents need to give their new spouse and stepchildren time to be alone, without intrusion. The biological parent can play games with her children, while the stepparent enjoys a personal hobby or goes shopping with his children. Such mini-family activity helps children get uninterrupted time with their biological parent and siblings, honoring their need for attention from the ones they love most. It also affirms to children that they have not completely lost access to their parent. As helpful as compartmentalized mini-family activities can be, however, those without a Crockpot mentality often perceive segregated time as an indication of family division.

Excerpted from:
The Smart Stepfamily by Ron Deal
Copyright © 2002, Ron Deal
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2013

    Apprentice den

    Paws sleep here

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 1, 2010

    A must-read for anyone considering remarriage with children

    My husband and I read this in the 6 mos before we were married-THANK GOODNESS it was recommended to us! We have referred to it many times in the 2 years since. This book is a thoughtful, realistic introduction to the complications of step- or blended-family life. It is very sobering, but if more couples read this BEFORE they remarry, perhaps the rate of 2nd+ divorces would be lower. It is so easy in the excitement of courtship and wedding planning to overlook the needs of the children who will be living in the newly formed family. But take heart-even if you are already remarried, there is a ton of helpful and insightful material that can help smooth out the bumpiest of step-family relationships.

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  • Posted December 5, 2009

    Step-Family Template

    Ron Deal provides a great template for the issues faced by many with the daunting task of creating a successful Step-Family. This book is useful even for those that are still moving past the divorce process. A must read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2008

    This is a must read

    I wish I had read this book prior to marrying my husband! Although we all think we know how to get it right the second time around, when children are added to the marriage, no matter how happy they seem to be as you get married, once the newness wears off, troubles tend to begin. This book helped me change my perception of stepparenting and guided me as to what my true role of a step mother was. I have 5 children who live with us, ranging in age from 19 to 10, and this helped me to 'see' what my actual role should be, not my perceived view or vision. One thing I have realized is that there is no such thing as a blended 'family', but a blending of 2 families which is very different from a 'traditional' family, no matter how hard you try to achieve that traditional notion. I reference this book often, and feel this is one of the few helpful books out there on successful stepfamily procedures and 'protocols', which cover all age levels, offers a good amount of different examples to glean information from, and is very realistic.

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    Posted January 21, 2010

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    Posted December 30, 2009

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    Posted July 26, 2010

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