It’s a role more and more adults are being asked to play – yet many step-parents feel like they are fighting an uphill battle.
Blended families have their challenges. But Studio 5 Family & Relationships Contributor Dr. Liz Hale introduces us to a family who seems to be getting it right.
It can be extremely hard to find the right balance when you’re a stepparent. Many adults try to blend their own families with high expectations. There is an erroneous belief that this experience will be similar to their first marriage in terms of time spent together, working on and enjoying the relationship. However, while initial marriages revolve around the new partner, subsequent marriages revolve around the children.
Relationships are built…..they are NOT instantaneous.
BUILD RELATIONSHIPS OVER TIME
See the new formed stepfamily as an “infant relationship.” It’s brand new and it’s weak. It’s as if you’re using a tiny thread to pull a mack truck; if you pull to hard or discipline too quickly, you’ll break the string. So take the time to develop the string into a cord, the cord into a rope, and the rope into a chain. This chain will one day be strong enough to take all the pushes and pulls of typical relationships developed over years…..not just artificially formed in days or months.
FIND & FOCUS ON WHAT’S RIGHT
If I had to offer the most important advice for building successful step-families it would be to find and focus on what’s right and good about your step-children. Get to know them and their interests….be on the look out for when they do something positive and impressive! Make a habit of saying what’s positive to your spouse about each of their children. Remember, not only will your partner hear your glowing accolades but your own inner ear will pick up on your sentiments and help maintain your softened heart, as well. Additionally, hopefully little ears in your home will also be picking up on the wonderful things you say and feel about them. And even if someone is not around to hear your positive feedback, I promise you, it still has an enormous effect on the relationship…..think of it as “Operation: Osmosis.”
MAINTAIN CONNECTIONS & CONVERSATIONS
Every person within a family needs to know that what they think and feel matters! While children may not always have their way, we can certainly provide a way for them to have their say. We need to continually make deposits into the relationship bank account as we go along. Holding regular family meetings where the talking stick is passed and whoever has it in their hands, has the floor without interruption or argument. Another off-shoot of the family meetings are regular personal interviews with each child. It will be easier for a stepchild to say, “I feel like you favor so-and-so when it comes to using the family car…..and I’m resenting it! because I feel like you don’t trust me.” Oftentimes what a child is saying is, “I feel like you don’t love me like you love your own child.” It is a constant effort to develop fairness and equality within a blended family…but it is worth all the effort to do so!