Given the unpredictability of the times we’re living in I hear many parents getting advice to create consistency and routines because they help to reduce a child’s anxiety and help them adjust to changes.
And while this is true, I want to point out the other side of the coin – inflexibility. Recently I’ve been a part of several conversations about inflexibility. These conversations were around inflexibility about food, schedules, and other life events.
Some parents think consistency means doing the same exact thing regularly every day or every week without deviation. But you want to encourage some deviation so that your stepchild learns to be flexible.
And you want them to know how to be flexible, adjust to modifications and successfully deal with them. You want your stepchild to be flexible without throwing a tantrum and for these unforeseen changes to not throw them completely off the rails.
If you think about it, you might know adults who are inflexible. And you might be familiar with how much havoc that reeks on their world. Maybe you can even relate to this concept yourself.
The Heart of Consistency In Stepparenting
The truth is flexibility and consistency come down to love, connection and support. So, for kids, this means knowing, for example, that even if they do something wrong, it’s okay and it’s not going to be the end of the world.
Knowing that they won’t be abandoned. And that this doesn’t mean that their parents don’t love them or won’t feed them or put a roof over their head. Because those fears are what’s really operating at the heart of the matter. They rock the child’s world – in a bad way.
But if there is a situation requiring flexibility you can supportively and lovingly show up for your stepchild and hold them through that experience. And I don’t mean literally hold, I just mean – be there.
Be available to them. Be there to co-regulate with them, to hug them, to hold them as they cry, to tell them it’s going to be okay, to breath with them. Don’t necessarily literally be with them every moment, but to say, “Hey, I’m here if you need a hug or if you want to talk about it.”
So, the quality of your response has to be consistent. This is so important, you guys!
But it’s good to have some degree of unpredictability, whether planned or incidental, because it’s a great way to test and help your stepchild to adjust and to learn to be flexible.
Because life, as we very well know, is not always predictable. It doesn’t always go according to your plans. Things happen and you need to adapt and adjust, and sometimes with a quick turnaround.
You don’t always have the luxury of time to prepare yourself, get yourself together, get organized and do all the things. You just need to be able to respond quickly.
Stepparent’s Self-Regulation In Response To A Dysregulated Stepchild
And, in order to do that effectively, the best and most important thing to learn is how to stay regulated even when things don’t go according to plan and don’t go your way or the way you expected them to.
This is the biggest lesson. Maybe it’s an opportunity to learn the lesson as a family. Certainly, modeling self-regulation while dealing with your stepchild who, because nobody’s perfect and they are human, will make mistakes.
One of the best things you can do is to be grounded, loving, supportive and calm. And when you’re not calm, to be able to use a self-regulating strategy, whatever that is for you, and then to re-engaging your stepchild.
For suggestions for how to self-regulate or find calm even during upsetting situations, please check out episode 7 at synergisticstepparenting.com/7 and episode 11 at synergisticstepparenting.com/11 on Stepparenting Sanity Routines.
All of that will serve both you and your stepchild and will be instrumental for your stepchild to adopt the skills they need to be successful even in unpredictable moments. Which is an important life skill.
5 Strategies For Stepchildren To Cope With Unexpected Changes
- Square Breath: Breath in for a count of 4. Hold for a count of 4. Out for a count of 4. Hold for a count of 4.
- Visualizing a happy place: Have them take a break and think about something positive whether it’s a happy memory or a place they’ve been to. Thinking about positive things always puts one in a good mood.
- Drawing: Have them draw their feelings.
- Music: Have them listen to music.
- Journaling: Have them do a 5-min brain dump.
I truly hope that this episode has been helpful and that you share it with a stepparenting or blended family buddy, sports mom, or book club bestie you know who could benefit from it. I would so appreciate it!
Until next time, be well!
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