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HERMOSA BEACH : Group Members Share Step-Family Solutions

August 25, 1994|MARY GUTHRIE

After arriving at a church party in their new neighborhood, the couple drifts to opposite ends of the get-together. She strikes up a conversation about her two children. He talks to a friend about his four children.

How many children do they have? Members of their new church puzzle over the conflicting numbers.

Actually, they add up to five, three from his prior marriage, one they had together, and one from her previous marriage.

Welcome to the world of step families. Experts say one in three Americans is a stepparent, stepchild, step sibling or some other member of a step family.

As the woman tells her party story to the other members of the Stepfamily Solutions group, there are nods and smiles around the table. Most of the adults attending the meeting have faced similar complicated equations.

The Stepfamily Assn. of America sponsors the South Bay chapter of Stepfamily Solutions, which meets twice a month at the Hermosa Beach Community Center.

The Stepfamily Assn. distributes information through the media, educational materials and a quarterly publication.

Stepfamily Solutions uses the materials as a guide for people who come to the free meetings, but the exchanges usually concentrate on the daily problems faced by people who are raising children who are not their own.

To protect their privacy, the participants asked to be identified only by their first names.

Nine months ago, when Connie, 41, married Andy, an 11-year-old boy and 17-year-old girl from Andy's previous marriage came as part of the package.

"I've never even had a roommate before," Connie told the group a little nervously. "I don't know how to be with children."

Andy squeezes her hand and says that Connie does very well with his kids, especially his son, who has a learning disability. The boy spends half his time with them, and now the daughter lives with them all the time. Nine months earlier the daughter wouldn't even talk to her father.

Several members of the group laugh out loud when Connie and Andy describe negotiating household rules in the bathroom with the shower on full blast for privacy.

Led by a trained counselor who also has a step family, the group focuses on finding ways around the everyday problems of living in a step family. People with more serious problems can get referrals to other South Bay social service agencies.

Stepfamily Solutions can be reached at (310) 552-7837.

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