In my last blog post, I discussed the scenarios that might come into play when becoming a new stepparent. In this post, I share a few specific tips to keep in mind that can help you transition into your new role.

The following tips can help you transition into your new combined family:

  • That head on the pillow next to you must be on your side – right or wrong. All adjustments to this rule number one must be made in private.
  • Don’t react – be proactive at all times.  This requires the parents to receive information impersonally, realizing that their children from their respective families are operating out of projected material, or it wouldn’t be so emotionally charged.
  • Act in your adult.  There are many trees in our forest – including the adult tree – find it!
  • Stay conscious. No blocking here, and no wounded child behavior. This will only put you on par with your children in an adversarial position. Remember: the child tree in your forest doesn’t have the capacity to help you in times of stress, only your conscious adult tree does. This tree has choices.
  • This tip is my personal favorite: listen to your children empathically. Follow my empathic process – I have found it is the best way to communicate. This means don’t ask your children how they feel, and then defend your position while emotionally beating them up for having told you their truth as they see it. Rather, value and respect what they are willing to share with you, without giving up your right to parent.  This allows children to be clear in their communication without getting over invested in the outcome. This creates a safe and, more importantly, neutral space for all parties to return to, often with a softer and sometimes change of heart.
  • Don’t assume anyone’s motives. Remember what the old adage said about assumptions. It is important to remember that, often in the case with children, they are unconscious of their motives. This can hold true for adults as well.
  • Do your best and be kind to yourself. If you are authentic in your behavior and do your best, you are more likely to secure a positive outcome.  Keep in mind that you are modeling behavior and children are taking their cues from their parents. Value yourself; establish boundaries and clear rules that are family creations. If children are involved in the making of family rules, they are invested, and therefore, more likely to follow them.

Since grief is the central player in divorce and in the new families created from divorce, it must be honored and given time to heal. A family that grieves can live again – not in the same way, but in a new way, and many times, more vitally.  Don’t burden your children with your problems, but rather seek professional help and counseling if tensions run too high.

Finally, the unspoken rule is to never speak in a derogatory way about biological parents, for that will attack the very identity of the children who count their natural parents as half of who they are. Ultimately, you and your stepchildren are on a spiritual journey, which has the opportunity to open your hearts and quicken your soul. 

Therefore, parents have an obligation to prepare the next generation for the future, including and most importantly, their future relationships. So model for your children what a good marriage is about. Stand together and make room for the kids.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.