Another mother's love. Guidelines for stepmothers

A perfect stepfamily is perfectly possible - I saw proof the other night on a ``Brady Bunch'' rerun. No problem was too big for the Brady clan to solve. Marsha had boy troubles. Peter broke Mom's favorite vase. Cindy could invite only one parent to a play....

But Mom and Dad Brady could solve any family differences in a half-hour!

Unfortunately, stepfamilies are rarely so happy - at least not at first.

According to The Good Stepmother (Crown Publishers Inc., New York, $17.95, 193 pp.), a new book by Karen Savage and Patricia Adams, adjustment to the new situation can be long in coming:

``Most therapists agree that it takes at least two years for the stepfamily even to begin to adjust to its new relationships, and many stepfamilies take years before they have come to a satisfactory family unit.''

As the authors discuss the many reasons for this long adjustment period, they help to unfold proposed solutions to stepfamily problems.

The Census Bureau reports that there are an estimated 1,300 new stepfamilies with children under 18 forming every day. If this trend continues until the end of the decade, there will be more single-parent families and stepfamilies in the United States than traditional families.

The main problem the authors try to address is the lack of guideposts stepfamilies have as they try to move toward a cohesive family unit.

In order to help, the book is written as a step-by-step guide toward establishing a healthy relationship between the stepmother and her new family. It helps her change from a stranger into an important part of the family unit.

According to the authors, there are certain guidelines that might be followed to make a smooth transition.

A range of pertinent topics are discussed, along with some ideas on the way to deal with certain situations. These include planning the marriage ceremony and dealing with finances and ex-wives.

The book is written in an easy-to-read format, with many true-to-life experiences and many practical tips for the new stepfamily.

``The Good Stepmother'' also shares reasons that a child might not accept a new mother right away.

They may feel she's a threat to the life style they're used to. They may feel they'll lose their father to this ``new woman.'' Those who are ``victims'' of divorce may now have to let go of the fantasy that their parents might get back together.

According to the authors, the father and his new wife must not ignore the child's fears. Their advice is to establish a friendship with the child first in order to gain his trust and acceptance.

Another important guideline concerns the husband and wife. They need to have a firm bond of support before they can expect to have harmony with the children.

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