Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Step Parents! It's Your Turn!

Dear Step Moms and Dads,

You people may just be the bravest, most optimistic, openhearted individuals EVER. Seriously. You met someone with kids from a previous relationship and managed to fall in love not only with your partner, but with their children. That is beautiful.

Unfortunately, however, it's no shocker blended families have it rough. Marriage is hard on its own, add in some less than thrilled kids and you have quite the combo. And what if you have children of your own you're bringing into the marriage? Where do they fit in? What if they don't get along with your partners children? What if your parenting styles are totally different? What if your kids hate your partner? What if your partner's kids hate you?? How do you handle baby mama/daddy drama - your own and/or your spouses?

So. Many. Variables.

You don't need me to tell you that kids hate divorce. You probably know that kids can view new relationships as the reason their parents broke up - it's a lot less painful to think that than it is to think it was their fault. Not to mention, when one parent moves on and develops a new relationship and the other doesn't, the kids worry about the parent who is alone.

I cannot stress enough how much kids worry about their parents. You may never hear them say it and you may not even believe me when I tell you this but it is the truth. Kids feel an obligation to save a parent they feel is weak or has been unfairly treated. Unfortunately, to save the one parent, they must display loyalty to the injured party.

It takes someone really special to go through step-parent hazing. Especially since there is no guarantee of a long-term solution. There is no one-size-fits-all for families bringing step-parents into the mix.

For the step-parents out there who are doing their best to form relationships with kids who hold a grudge against you or blame you for the break-down of their family I must say KUDOS. Way to hang in there Champ! The most important basics to remember for the step-parent are as follows.

1) Never, never, never say anything negative about their other parent. Rise above, people. Rise above.

2) Don't get involved in the discipline. Let their bio-parent handle that and if they don't, MAKE THEM. By putting you in the power position they have set you up to fail. They are not doing their job as a parent if you become primary caretaker and decision maker.

3) Stop trying so hard. Step back and remove yourself from the equation, especially if things are getting sticky. Should you build a relationship with your step-kids? Sure! Remember, Rome wasn't a built in a day, relationships aren't either. Don't fall into the trap of "It's been "XYZ" amount of time! Shouldn't everything be all set by now??" Let things happen organically. Don't rush them.

4) Put your marriage first. Pour your energy into your relationship where it is actually appreciated. If the kids see their parent is happy they will eventually fall in line like fuzzy little ducklings. They just need a leader. And that leader must be their parent.

5) Do your absolute best to enjoy the kids. Don't worry about teaching them lessons or get caught up in power struggles. You get to be the fun one here! It's not your job to teach them about "respect" for God's sake. Please, please do not even go there. They don't even know you. They don't hate you, but they may hate the idea of you. This comes from their fear of being replaced, forgotten about, overlooked, or just simply not good enough. Kids who've been through a divorce have already had their self esteem squished. Do everything in your power to prove them wrong. You are an adult, therefore the responsibility of acting that way is on you.

Last but not least - Marriage and Family Therapists are trained to help you deal with this stuff! Go find one! Go now! (www.therapistlocator.net)

Read this. Commit it to memory. Repeat.

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