Journaling Through Relationships — Stepparents 2

“Modern families are complicated things. Siblings, half siblings, stepparents, stepcousins, what have you. You can’t pick who you’re born to, that’s for sure.” 
― Cherie Priest

DID YOU GROW UP WITH ONE OR MORE STEPPARENTS? According to the *Pew Research Foundation, as of 2011 more than four in ten American adults had at least one step relative in their family. And you can be pretty sure the number has increased since then. In 2016, 8 percent of children living in two-parent families lived with a stepparent — most often with their biological mother and a stepfather.

Some other statistics to consider: Three out of four people who divorce remarry. And almost half of all marriages today are second marriages for at least one of the partners. A high percentage of these marriages involve children from a previous marriage, creating a blended family with all the new and complex relationships that entails.

There’s no doubt about it: stepfamilies are an established part of our family culture.

And yet, our relationships with our stepparents are rarely recognized. Except in stories as “the wicked stepmother,” or “evil stepfather.” And sure enough, there are a few of those. But in real life, your stepparents are usually just people doing their best to fill a role in the family.

So, just as with your biological parent, it’s worth taking time to explore and write about your relationship to your stepparent and how that relationship has affected other relationships in your life.

Note: If you had more than one stepparent — either through both parents remarrying or one parent remarrying multiple times — use the following prompts to write about each person separately.


Journaling Prompts about Stepparents

  1. How old were you when your stepparent came into your life? What was your reaction at the time?
  2. How have your feelings toward your stepparent changed over time?
  3. How would you describe your relationship with your stepparent?
  4. Write a list of your stepparent’s characteristics, including physical, emotional, psychological, habits, mannerisms, etc. Make the list as long as you can — 100 items. Keep listing (it’s okay to repeat) until no more characteristics come to mind. Next, review the list, noticing recurring images and themes. Write about what you notice.
  5. What were your stepparent’s strengths? In your opinion, what did he or she get right? How did these strengths influence you?
  6. What were your stepparent’s failings? What did he or she get wrong? How did these failings influence or affect you?
  7. If you could go back in time, what is the one thing you would change about your relationship with your stepparent?
  8. Write a letter to your stepparent telling him or her everything you’ve been holding back from saying. How do you feel having gotten all that off your chest?
  9. What’s the biggest gift you could have given your stepparent?
  10. In what ways has your relationship with your stepparent affected or influenced your relationships with others?


Deepen the Exploration

Deepen your understanding of your feelings, thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs about your relationship by repeating what you’ve written using key phrases. Decide which phrase to use, then repeat it until you feel that you’ve gotten to the core of an issue using the following form:

  • What I mean by __________ is . . .


I might write, “Whenever I think of A, I feel guilty.” I select the first key word or phrase (“guilty”) and continue with, “What I mean by guilty is self-recrimination, as though I have not acted the way I want or am expected to. Then, I follow up on the first statement by choosing the next key word or phrase (“expected”) and writing, “What I mean by expected is that I feel pressure to be more like B than who I really am . . .,” and so on.

What stands out most to you about your relationship with your stepparent?


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2 thoughts on “Journaling Through Relationships — Stepparents

  • Sara Etgen-Baker

    I am one of those stepparents–a woman who married a man who’d been married twice. I didn’t totally comprehend the baggage I’d marry, and I most certainly could not fathom the complicated relationships inherent in becoming a stepparent. To say it’s complicated understates the reality. 🙂 All that aside, I’m taking the prompts and replacing “stepparent” with “stepchildren.” Hopefully I can gain some much needed perspective and healing, particularly with the youngest stepdaughter who, despite being almost 45 years of age, still believes her parents will remarry and that I am the only obstacle in the way. She has what I call a “Cinderella Complex” who from the get go was told I was like the evil stepmother in Cinderella. She’s spent her entire life creating that reality/fantasy. Seems as if nothing I do will change that. So I have to learn to accept and forgive and move beyond the toxicity. Okay, I rambled again. I think the prompts will help…thanks!

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Sara, in this series there will also be a post with prompts about stepchildren. So, though these prompts may be helpful, you may find more relevant prompts in that article. In the meantime, I do hope you find some healing and perspective through your writing. One way to approach this might be to respond to the prompts from the viewpoint of your stepchildren (and particularly that youngest one). Using your imagination and knowledge to write from their perspective might provide some insights as well.