Ep 15 – Your Stepchild’s Loyalty Conflict – Part 1: Background

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Hello Stepparents! In episode 6, I briefly mentioned that your stepchild is conflicted when it comes to you and their loyalties to you. Find the show notes for that episode at synergisticstepparenting.com/6.

Today we’re going to dig deeper and explore that conflict.

Creating a biological family is different than creating a blended family. In the biological family there is time for the partners to get on the same page before the child enters the equation.

Every family has their rhythm. Their own way of talking, their own beliefs and their way of doing things.

Your stepchild has had their whole life – even including the time they were developing in the womb – to build a connection with their biological parents.

Your Stepchild is Fighting Biology to Accept You

As human beings, we are physiologically wired for the need and connection to our biological parents. Since in the early stages of life, we are completely dependent on these adults to keep us alive.

Thanks to Dr. Bruce Lipton we know that from age 0-7 years old we are in a sort of low-grade hypnosis called theta. Theta is a lower vibrational frequency than our conscience. While in theta, our brains are like sponges … indiscriminately soaking up everything we come across.

So, it’s easy to see how the beliefs of people they spent the most time with, usually their parents, have had the biggest impact on them in terms of their beliefs and their behaviors.

Stepparenting, on the other hand, looks very different. As a stepparent, you are often coming into a stressful situation. Fraught with turmoil over the breaking up of the bio family and accompanying grief and mourning that is at best still lingering. Especially for the child.

And coping with the loss of having everyday access to both of their biological parents can be overwhelming, difficult and extremely painful.

The reason this loss is more painful for the child, is that since birth they didn’t know another way for a human to be or behave. Even in situations where there might have been abuse or neglect.

It might be easy to assume that the child is better off not seeing that parent. Or at least having more distance from the other bio parent some of the time. But your stepchild doesn’t feel that way.

Your stepchild only knows that that’s mom or dad. And they are wired to want a connection to that parent and to be valued and loved by them.

What’s Going on for Your Stepchild When You Enter the Picture?

From the get-go as the stepparent, you feel an obligation to meet, get to know, and learn to get along with several family members very quickly. Especially so with your partner’s child.

And their child, just wants easy and regular access to both parents. There’s already so much changing for them in their everyday lives. Let’s remember that a lot happens in a short amount of time for kids where growth and development are concerned both physically and emotionally.

Not to mention the major adjustment of life as you know it. Often the child splits the time between both parent’s homes. So now the child has a new place to live to adjust to. They don’t have all their stuff in one place since they’re splitting time between the parent’s homes.

There are new rules to learn and adjust to. Since often times rules are different in the different households. And at the very least there’s new routines as the flow is different at each home base.

Now they see a new person come into the house, and it feels to them like this new person is replacing their biological parent.

This feeling might not even be a conscious awareness. But it’s usually present at some level. Even if simply opening the old wound of the fact that they used to live with both of their biological parents and they want that scenario back again.

That’s a lot for any adult to adjust to. Now throw in the lack of life experience, lack of self-awareness, a lack of ability to regulate their emotional state, and all of the changes within themselves. This only adds more weight to an already heavy load to bear.

Enter a perceived stranger who’s trying to take the place of mommy or daddy and is going to be telling them what to do. Well, that’s just a recipe for an emotional tornado that’s ready to blow down everything in its path.

Tips to Get Out of the Cross Fire

First of all, all behavior is communication. It can be hard to remember this in the moment. And believe me, I know! But when your stepchild is saying some choice words to you, giving you the cold shoulder or throwing you the tude – please remember it’s not personal. There is a lot on their plate and they are going through IT ALL.

And let’s not forget school and puberty, if that is playing a role in the matter. Remember how hard those years were for you?

So, the next time you’re met with an unpleasant exchange, try the following …

  1. Take some deep breaths … in for 3 and out for 5 for 90 seconds. That’s how long it takes your central nervous system to reset and start to calm down.
  2. Reach deep inside to connect with your most soothing tone and volume. Channel your meditation guru.
  3. Think about what would feel good to hear if you had all of that on your plate? Or at least, what won’t make it all feel worse?
  4. If things don’t go smoothly, that’s okay. Give yourself grace. Remember you’re learning a new skill and building that muscle will take some time. Celebrate that you put one foot in front of the other and gave it a go. And remember, the more you do this, the better at it you’ll get and the easier it will become.

In the meantime, if you want some additional tips to create harmonious co-parenting in your blended family, download your copy of 4 Steps to Start Transforming Family Chaos into Harmonious Co-Parenting. You can get that at synergisticstepparenting.com/subscribe.

Until next time, be well!

Related Episodes:

Your Stepchild’s Loyalty Conflict – Part 2: Behavior

#1 Cause of Disconnect in Your Stepparenting

Get Out of the Stepparenting Autopilot Grind

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