Are you remarried with children? Perhaps you are in a relationship with someone who has children of their own? If so, then you know that children are a wonderful mixed bag of blessings (and challenges) when it comes to remarriage.
In my last post I talked about being “that” step parent. I was trying to keep order in our home, and to figure out what was fair when it came to family disputes between all of the members of our blended family.
As it turns out, for a period of time, this made me the “wicked” step Mom.
One day it was my daughter who let me know that I wasn’t exactly winning any step-mom of the year awards with my husband’s children.
After taking a step-back to nurse my bruised ego I decided to make some changes. I began to understand how they felt. After all, what value did I add? I was just one more person/authority figure they had to share their Dad with. I am nothing if I am not highly self-aware, and when the universe sent me the message, I heard it loud and clear.
Seize opportunities to add value:
With this new-found awareness and my bruised ego, I needed to move forward and repair the relationship with my step-children. How? I had to start making a point to add value to their lives. I had to start looking for opportunities to show them that I love them and was all about looking out for their best interests.
I had many opportunities to show love and add value over the past several years. One instance in particular comes to mind. It was a Saturday night during the summer several years back. My husband and I were enjoying an evening alone when we received a call from my husband’s former wife. She was at the end of her rope with their teenagers. (If you are, or have ever been the parent of teenagers you know those are challenging years for parents. Emotions and drama can be rampant, add a blended family to the mix and it can be a shit show.)
There was a situation with my step-kids that needed his attention. I don’t recall the specifics, but I remember My husband was summoned over to his former wife’s beach house to help out. When my husband returned home that night, he had his son in tow, both were obviously upset.
My husband began to heatedly lecture his son about whatever situation transpired at his former-wife’s house. His son was trying to explain his side of the story, but my husband was past the point of explanations. I could see the frustration welling up in my step-son’s eyes. He just wanted to be heard and to know that someone understood things from his perspective. As a third party by-stander, I was able to listen and understand. I ensconced myself into the situation. With my help my step-son was able to articulate his version of the events at his Mom’s house, and talk about why things turned out the way they did. The emotions died down, and consequences (whatever they were, I can’t recall) were well-suited. Unbeknownst to me at the time, what started out as a disaster of a night, turned out to be a turning-point in our familial relationship. I stood up for my step-son during the heat of the moment and from his perspective added value to his life.
Issues that arise with children are the single biggest reason that remarriages fail. Maintaining a good relationship with your step children can make all the difference for your family. I don’t have a specific statistic, but have experienced it first-hand. There is no right or wrong way to be a “step” parent. The important thing is to give attention and time to your own children (if you have them), and to give lots of space for your partner to be a parent to his/her children. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to bring everyone together, but making sure the children feel secure with their relationship with their “natural” parent is critical.
I know not everyone is going to agree with me. That’ OK. This is our story and is what worked for our family. Our children are older and we managed to get through those difficult early years better and stronger than we were before.
The Do’s of our “blended” parenting playbook:
- Ensure that your step children have lots of regular, consistent alone time with their parent.
- Consciously look for opportunities to add value to your “step” child’s relationship with their parent.
- Ensure that you aren’t giving more time and attention to your “step” kids than your own. Failing to do so will back-fire in the long-run.
- Take it slow, if your step-child doesn’t wish for you to attend one of his/her events, then don’t attend. Instead take a step back and add some value to their lives first. Eventually they will want you there. Just be patient.
The Don’ts of our “blended” parenting playbook:
- Don’t Give unsolicited advice. (aka. Unsolicited lecturing)
- Don’t try to help them become better “people”
- Don’t insist that they accept you as an authority figure
- Don’t put too much effort into making all of the children think of one another as real siblings. This idea may be pretty neat for you, but will likely feel strange and unwelcome to all of the children.
I have a lot of experience in “blended” family dynamics. I am a step-child as both of my parents are remarried. My own children have step-siblings and “former” step-siblings, and I’ve got step-children of my own. I’ve seen what worked and what didn’t work over the long haul.
Take things one day at a time and let your new family blend slowly, naturally. Patience and communication are key. Never stop gauging your situation and making adjustments and using what works for your “blended” family.
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Thank you for reading and be fearless!