Program helping Utahns finding themselves in new family dynamic

Save Story

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY -- One out of every three Americans is now a stepparent, stepchild or a stepsibling. A statewide program is addressing the unique needs of people who find themselves in a whole new family dynamic.

A change in family structure, whether it's a remarriage or two families coming together, can be difficult. Stepfamily Education is a six-week course that gives families direction and hope to face their challenges head on.

One out of every three Americans is now a step-parent, step-child or a step-sibling.

The course can prove to be an invaluable tool, as many Utahns are looking for a guidebook to help them navigate the changing landscape of the family unit.

"It wasn't really very easy, and there just wasn't a lot of information out there," says Susan Philbrick, a Stepfamily Education participant.

Philbrick is part of a stepfamily. When she got married, she and her new husband found themselves facing a unique set of challenges. Philbrick had children from a previous marriage; her husband was a single bachelor.

"We found that blending our family dynamics him coming from having a dog and taking on three children, to me having three children and taking on a dog wasn't blending as well as we had hoped it would," Philbrick says.

Her family found support in the Stepfamily Education. The program is funded by a federal grant through Utah State University. Classes address everything from finances and communication between spouses to child discipline and how the kids fit into their new family.

"There's a lot of benefit to the parents to know how to help [their] children through these transition periods," says Paul Ricks, clinical director for the Family Support Center.

2003 Marriage Statistics

CountyTotal Number of MarriagesTotal Number of Remarriages % of Marriages that were Remarriages
Box Elder 255 131 52%
Cache 1,423 285 20%
Davis 2,387 726 30%
Iron 209 84 40%
Salt Lake 10,654 2,487 23%
Utah 3,411 807 24%
Washington 1,249 357 29%
Weber 1,471 700 48%
Utah State University Extension

For instance, in a blended family a child accustomed to being the oldest may find himself or herself among the youngest, or in the middle.

"The demographics of the family changes because of what you are marrying into," says Stephen Terry, Stepfamily Education course facilitator.

Having gone through the course himself, Terry uses his own life experience to help others.

"My wife and I were deeply in love, and our kids were deeply in dislike," Terry says. "That challenge itself made it something that we really needed to consider finding some resources to help blend these two families."

Class members meet once a week, finding encouragement in one another.

"It helps to come together and have a group of people where you can sit around and discuss and hear what other people are facing," Philbrick says.

It really is a family affair at the Family Support Center -- dinner and a nursery for young kids is offered to class members.

CLICK HERE for more information on the Stepfamily Education program.


Related links

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics

Anne Forester


    Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast