Practical advice with great real-life examples from an expert in the field – that’s what you get with Blended Family Advice, by Shirley Cress Dudley. I highly recommend it and it makes a great companion to some other wonderful book on blended families written by someone you know — moi — and it’s called How To Screw Up Your Kids: Blended Families, Blendered Style.

Shirley Cress Dudley is a wonderful mix of expertise and humbling personal experience, as she has spent years as a therapist/counselor and also as a step-parent in her own household.  She skillfully and honestly weaves her sometimes painful experiences and advice based upon them into Blended Family Advice. Readers, be assured, she is on your side and knows what a tough job step-parenting can be. There’s no judging in Blended Family Advice. She also very effectively yet discreetly incorporates problems presented in her practice, in an engaging “Dear Abby”-like format.

She also delivers a consistent theme that I will butcher and summarize as “agree on a plan and stick to it consistently and decisively.” No waffling! She stresses that alignment within the couple and consistency with each other and with the kids is key. Hear, hear! She had me from the word “Plan.”

As a parent in a blended family myself, I especially appreciated the focus on keeping the relationship between the couple central and protected. It was also clear that she had a good handle on the perspectives of all the different people involved in a blended family scenario — from the parents, to the step-parents, the ex’s of the step-parents, the friends, the grandparents, the kids – and helps readers empathize and understand with all of these perspectives.

My husband also read Blended Family Advice, and his favorite element of the book was the fully written out conversation starters, such as the one on communicating with children. She writes the words into full paragraphs and makes it OK for readers to read them to their kids. She advises that you can say something like “This is hard for me to say, but this book has a really good example of how I feel inside. Can we sit down together and I’ll read it to you?” Finding the right words can be very hard in these emotionally-charged, high stakes situations, and it is comforting to find words that will work, in multiple variations for the reader to choose from.

The book contains some wonderful practical activities and some bonus topics that I loved: blended family finances, holidays, homebuying, and a special section for grandparents. Wow, I wish I’d had the grandparent report years ago! (Yes, Mom, I would have sent it straight to you!)

Really, this book should be required reading for people who are about to marry and create a blended family.  If you missed that opportunity and are further down the road, this book will help you circle back and solve some of the issues you’ve probably struggled with for years.

Y’all know I’m passionate on this topic!


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