As discussed in part and 2 of this mini-series, unlike first time partnerships, step-relationships present a number of challenges that require special management. We not only have to manage relating with our partner but also with his or her children.
Today, we feature the last of our Do’s and Don’ts for dealing with our stepchildren and also take a look at how to best manage our biological children in the stepfamily.
DEALING WITH VERY YOUNG STEPCHILDREN:
In many ways dealing with very young stepchildren is easier than dealing with older ones. They are usually too small to struggle with loyalty conflicts, haven’t as yet become critical and generally respond well to kindness.
HAVE AGE-APPROPRIATE EXPECTATIONS
The danger in step-situations, especially if we don’t have any previous parenting experience, can be that we expect more from a young child than he or she may be capable of giving. With young stepchildren it is important that you…
DON’T expect maturity that is beyond their age or an ability to do things they haven’t as yet been taught.
DO spend time playing with them.
DON’T expect very young stepchildren to fall in step with your normal life style if it isn’t child-oriented.
DO act in consistent ways. Ensure that they have regular sleep and mealtimes. Be a predictable and stabilising factor in their lives.
MANAGING YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR STEP-TEENS:
Step-teens can present a particular challenge, especially if you have not had experience with teens of your own.
TRUST AND RESPECT
DON’T be scared off by your step-teens aloofness, their ‘I don’t care’ type behaviour or an apparent lack of interest.
DO remember that step-teens, like all teens, are going through a difficult life phase during which they are far more invested in separating than in connecting. To ‘win’ your step-teens you need to create trust and give them lots of respect.
RELATING AS AN INDIVIDUAL
In order to create trust and respect with your step-teen it is important that they get to know you as the individual you are. This necessitates that you…
DON’T be their biological parent’s mouth piece but instead…
DO let them know that you have a mind of your own. Share your ideas, thoughts and feelings with them and allow them to share theirs with you.
FORGING A CONNECTION
DON’T expect your step-teens to turn to you when they need a helping hand or a listening ear, but if you…
DO consistently show them your sincerity and genuine interest, especially when they are in times of need they may, in time, accept and appreciate your help.
Remember that actions speak louder than words!
MANAGING YOUR BIOLOGICAL CHILD/REN IN THE STEPFAMILY:
DON’T forget that your biological children need your love, time and attention as much as your stepchildren do.
DO remember to constantly reassure your biological children of your love and affection.
DON’T allow yourself to become so overwhelmed with the responsibilities of your stepfamily that you have no time left for your own children.
DO make time for them to:
§ Take them out for special meals – e.g. dinner for just the two of you.
§ Make special play time with them – perhaps whilst the other children are at school.
§ Do more of what you used to do before your child/ren became part of the stepfamily - e.g. pat them to sleep, talk special ‘baby talk’ to them, give them lots of hugs and kisses.
DON’T expect maturity beyond their years from your biological children. They may not yet understand concepts of sharing and caring and might simply want all of you for themselves.
DO find ways of explaining and showing them that you have enough love for everyone in the family. Help them understand that the more love you give the more it grows and that love is something that can never be exhausted.
DON’T expect your biological children to automatically see and embrace the benefits of your remarriage.
DO point out to them the good things that have resulted from your remarriage, such as:
§ Gaining a loving step-parent.
§ Having more opportunities to go to soccer - or other games; swimming with stepbrothers and sisters.
§ Gaining step-siblings to play and to talk with.
§ Having more family outings.
I trust that this 3-part mini series has provided you with some useful tips that you can apply in your own stepfamily.
Good luck, Sonja