Monday, April 27, 2009

Successful Stepparenting

Yes, it's true! A stepfamily can never be the same as a nuclear family but it can be just as happy and successful. How???? Here are some tips of how you can help: 

Befriend your stepchildren gently and slowly 

As there are no blood-ties between you and your stepchildren, building a connection between you will take a special effort. One way you can do this is by spending time with your stepchildren. Show an interest in what is important to them. Do things with them they enjoy doing. Let them know that you like being with them and give them plenty of space and time to get to know you, like you and – if you are luck – one day, perhaps, even to love you.

Realise that your partner’s ex most likely struggles as much with your presence in their life as you struggle with their presence in yours 

Your partner’s ex may feel very insecure about you and could be fearful of sharing their children.  Help your partner’s ex realise that you are not trying to take their place in their children’s lives. Remember that it’s the children who suffer most if you cannot connect with the ex on any level. Your life is likely to be much more peaceful if you “bury the axe” with your partner’s ex.

Keep your door open for step-relatives 

Show your stepchildren’s grandparents and other extended family members that you are glad to have them in your life. Befriend them if you can. Be aware that the grandparents may be struggling with loyalty conflicts and could be rather wary of you. Don’t expect them to “take sides” and encourage your stepchild’s relationship with them. Let the grandparents “help you out” by babysitting or by having their grandchildren stay with them for the weekend. Most importantly, let them know that you appreciate them.

Be aware that your stepchildren may still be grieving for all they have lost 

Grieving children often exhibit difficult behaviours. When this happens it is helpful to remember that this is not about you and it is vital that you don’t take their behaviour personally. Give your stepchildren permission to grieve. Encourage them to talk about it and be willing to listen. Above all, don’t try to fix their pain but lend them your shoulder to cry on.

Don’t expect your stepchildren to shed the values and beliefs with which they have been raised just because they don’t happened to be the same as yours 

Stretch your own horizon. Learn to accept the children for who they are, including their values and beliefs. Showing them acceptance role models healthy and powerful behaviour, and  makes it far more likely that they - in their own time - will accept you for who you are, including your  values and beliefs.

Accept that, if you and your partner have a baby together, it won’t be a ‘first’ for them 

Know that having your first baby with your partner is special even though they have been through the experience before. Recognise, however, that you baby cannot and will not replace any child your partner has from a previous relationship. Be aware that they will continue to love and care for their other children as much as they do for your mutual child.

If you have your stepchildren live with you permanently, it’s important to accept that you will have to share your attention and affection between them and your own child. Don’t allow the deeper bond you will feel with your biological children to cause unfair behaviour towards your stepchildren. Don’t be surprised if you feel a sense of grief. 

Stepparenting, whilst clearly presenting a variety of challenges that couples in nuclear families do not have to face can be a tough but also a great and most rewarding experience. Happy stepparenting! 

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