Let’s face it stepparenting is not the easiest job. And although it’s rewarding, it can be overwhelming. And when it comes to your partner and stepchild, it can take a while to find your groove with each other.
Did I mention the many stakeholders with strong opinions about you, and your relationship with your stepchild? There is the ex-partner also known as the other bio-parent, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, best friends, etc. It’s no wonder that the anxiety is starting to set in.
Have you ever had doubts about whether or not being a stepparent right for you? This is the exact question we’re talking about this week.
When I first started my stepparenting journey, I definitely wasn’t ready! At least I didn’t feel like I was. I took lots of time to think about it and came up with many good reasons for not having children.
Many of my “reasons” came down to fear.
Fear of uncertainty. Fear of the tremendous responsibility. Wondering …
Do I have what it takes to do this?
Am I good enough?
Can I raise a healthy and well-adjusted child?
When I started dating my partner, I was honest with him from the beginning. I shared these good reasons with him presenting solid evidence and logic. Then sat there with an I-rest-my-case expression on my face.
He looked at me earnestly, smiled … and said, “because you know what you didn’t like from your childhood experiences and you know what not to do, is exactly why you’ll be a great parent.”
It took me a few weeks to sit with his words and take them in. As I reflected on it more, I realized that he was right. Eventually, his words gave me the confidence and courage to move forward on this journey.
It was a long and difficult road with many ups, plummets, twists, break-your-neck turns and hurdles. I’ve shared several of them with you on the show.
By the way, if you’re enjoying the podcast, I’d sincerely appreciate if you’d head over to Apple Podcast and give us 5-star rating and write a review. It would truly mean the world to me, personally! You can learn how to do that in the show notes of this episode.
But in addition to the many challenges, it’s been an incredible experience of growth, love, connection, patience, strength, and meeting my edge in ways I could have never imagined.
Being on this adventure for almost a decade, I’ve had to learn to navigate many hardships on my own.
If you’re considering jumping on this bandwagon and are at the beginning of your journey, here’s some advice I wish I had when I was starting mine … and if you’re well underway on your journey, don’t worry you’ll find these invitations for reflection helpful too.
1. Consider Safety
Safety is at the top of the list. Some questions to ask yourself …
Do you feel physically and emotionally safe?
Are your physical and emotional needs being met?
If you have a child …
Do they feel physically and emotionally safe?
Are their physical and emotional needs being met?
2. Quality Time
For most parents after going through a divorce, the bonds with their kids strengthen even more because the kids often become partners in several decisions that they might not have weighed in on when the parents were still together.
Often those bonds are largely what gets both the parent and children through the messy and painful business of the divorce.
So, having quality time alone with their parent without the stepparent is critical for children. It’s a small way to keep some consistency from before the stepparent entered the picture.
It’s an opportunity for the child to speak candidly to their parent about everything that’s going on for them and to feel like they have their own relationship with that parent who’s been there from the beginning through it all.
As a stepparent you have to be okay with this and not take it personally.
Because children look to their parents as the number one source of comfort. They rely on their parents to help them process their feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Especially during difficult and all-encompassing transitions – like divorce and blending a new family.
It’s just as important for you, the stepparent, and your partner to have date nights without the kids to nurture your relationship as well.
And it’s equally important for you, the stepparent, to find opportunities for one-on-one quality time with your stepchild.
Communication usually opens up and flows in one-on-one interactions. This could be in the form of doing a chore around the house together, working on a project together, or doing a favorite activity together – like playing a sport.
Remember, this is a difficult and sensitive situation you’re walking into. Kids often have strong feelings about the divorce of their parents well after that divorce is over.
And since kids have far less experience navigating challenging and complex situations, it often takes them longer to fully process their feelings about it.
Not to mention the physiological bonds that they have to their biological parents. So, when you’re a stepparent coming into this new dynamic, take your time getting to know the players and the rules.
Watch the dynamics from the sidelines, let things play out a bit. Then take time reflecting on things.
Try your best to understand where everyone is coming from, but also share your thoughts and feelings. Create a safe space to discuss. Discuss things with your partner first, and do so one-on-one without your stepchild present.
As you build a relationship with your stepchild you can explore things with them as well. Be sure to come at all conversations from a lens of curiosity. Don’t assume how they think or feel.
Rather ask them. Doing so you will not only be building a connected relationship, but you’ll be teaching them the valuable skill of reflecting and tuning into their emotions and thoughts.
Leave the disciplining to their parents, and as time goes on and you build the relationships with your partner and your stepchild, you’ll be able to explore the possibility of growing your role.
Allow that growth to happen naturally and organically. Whatever you do, don’t force it! That will only bring out their defenses and create resistance and resentment.
There will be conversations and situations when your partner will have to discuss, meet with, or even spend time with their ex-partner, your stepchild’s other bio-parent. This is necessary and it’s the way it is. It’s important that you understand and respect it.
And everything goes much easier for everyone involved when you keep your jealousy about it in check. Usually, jealousy is about your own insecurity. Instead of waiting for feelings of jealousy to creep up, work through the emotions and prepare for these situations to occur.
Try these steps…
- Process your own emotions looking thoroughly at your behavior.
- Is there truly cause for concern?
- If after doing steps 1 and 2 you feel like a conversation needs to happen with your partner – talk to them.
But be prepared to be open to what they have to say and really hearing and understanding their perspective.
If you find yourself getting upset by your own emotions, better to take a break and return to the conversation later, when you’ve calmed down and are ready to hear each other again.
5. Giving Up Control
No matter how strongly you feel about your stepchild, the bottom line to get used to is giving up control. Because when it comes to your stepchild, you are not the final decision-maker.
You can be a source of love, wisdom, caring and support. But the bottom line is that is not your child. And their parents have final say.
Prepare yourself to navigate a lot of unknowns and being able to flow with them by letting go of outcomes. Try these 5 things …
- Do your best
- Have patience with yourself and your new lovable clan
- Show yourself plenty of grace
- Make sure to lean on your support system
- Practice self-care regularly and often
If you want more tips and strategies to help you on your stepparenting journey, download my FREE 4 Step Guide to Transform Family Chaos into Harmonious Co-Parenting at synergisticstepparenting.com/subscribe.
Through showing up, staying grounded and being responsive to the needs that arise during these interactions, you are earning your place in your blended family.
The rewards are well worth it!
Until next time, be well.
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