Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Stepfamily Realities (continued)

Continued from last week's post...


d. MY PARTNER WILL SUPPORT ME EVERY STEP OF THE WAY - you think ?


If you are lucky he will support you more often than not. He’d be superhuman if he’d fulfil all your expectations all of the time. Chances are that he’ll experience the occasional conflict to do with his role in the stepfamily. If he backs you up in every dispute, how will his children feel - abandoned, pushed aside, unimportant? Have you considered that these could be questions that may keep him awake at night. After all, he wants only the best for his children – he wants them to be happy. Understandable, right? Absolutely….as long as it doesn’t have a negative effect on you, right? After all it’s you who needs his support. You are the new member of the family and should be treated with special consideration. So, how will (do) you react when he backs them up every now and then? As far as taking sides in family issues is concerned, remember that he is ‘the meat in the sandwich’ trying to please all people at once, which (no matter how hard one tries) just doesn’t work.


HELPFUL HINTS:

  • Don’t expect your partner to be superhuman. Give him the grace to make mistakes (give yourself permission to do that also).
  • When he slips up, forgive!
  • Remember that it takes time in new stepfamilies to grow into individual roles and to find one’s place. Although you may have to make the greatest adjustments, your partner has to adjust as well.
  • Be patient, be understanding, be kind!
  • REMEMBER, YOUR PARTNER IS ONLY HUMAN!


e. DISCIPLINE WON’T BE A PROBLEM IN OUR HOME! - really?


The kids are running riot, your partner is not around…in desperation you shout….”enough, get to your room until you can calm down!” ... only to be met with an angry “you can’t tell me what to do, you are not our mother”! You stand there fuming, mouth open in readiness to retort….but what are you going to say, what are you going to do? You might like to take to drastic measures at this point but what will your partner say? Will he be angry with the kids for their dreadful behavior or take a protective stance and be angry with you instead? You are doing some quick mental gymnastics – the type of exercise most stepparents are quite good at.


Discipline can be an area of great contention in stepfamilies…

which makes it really important that you come to an agreement early on in your stepfamily formation on how you wish to handle this area. Expectations of children, their duties and responsibilities in your home need to be decided and clearly stated. It is important to be equally clear on the consequences of misbehavior. The general consensus on discipline in stepfamilies is that in the beginning (and for some time to come) any disciplinary measure should be carried out by the biological parent.


HELPFUL HINTS

  • Ensure that you both have clear expectations of the children’s behaviour, duties and responsibilities whilst they are in your home.

  • These expectations and the consequences, should they be violated, need to be clearly stated and need to be understood by the child/ren.

  • Initially, let the biological parents take responsibility for disciplining their children.

  • Be sure that the discipline is age appropriate and befitting the child/ren’s misdemeanors.

  • Discipline should not be harsh or over the top – the emphasis should be on teaching rather than punishment.

  • Discipline is only of value if you clearly separate the child’s punishable deeds from the child’s character.

  • REMEMBER – NEVER DISCIPLINE IN ANGER!

f. WE’LL JUST BE ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY - yea right!


This is a particularly tempting but rather unrealistic ideal for partners who each have children from their former relationships. Trying to blend two sets of children can be fraught with complications. It’s a bit like putting an elephant into the same compound as a giraffe – like mixing two different species. What makes us think that these kids are going to get along, accept and/or befriend each other? Chances are they that they have grown up in rather different circumstances, perhaps are used to entirely different life styles, beliefs, values, ideas. To top it all off their other biological parent may still be hurting, angry, jealous and have anything but friendly feelings towards you (the stepparent). Whether you like it or not, this has a profound effect on their offspring and thus has an equally profound effect on the “blending” process.


As with all other step-parenting issues the secret to success is to take it slowly. Rather than trying to make things happen let them evolve accepting that the outcome may not be the one you had been dreaming of. Yes, it’s a good idea to plan for things that all of you can do together in the hope that it will create family bonding – and it might, but then again it might not. If that’s the case, don’t let it upset you. Rome wasn’t built in one day either.


HELPFUL HINTS:

  • Remember that your partner’s children bring their own set of values, beliefs, expectations and histories.
  • Respecting these differences will greatly better your chances of happy family blending.
  • If your step-child/ren’s mother or father isn’t your favourite person don’t say anything negative about her or him in the child/ren’s presence.
  • Plan for family times, but don’t be dogmatic about them.
  • Meet your stepchildren at their point of need (that means, if they are grieving, allow them to grieve, if they aren’t sure about how they fit into your home and life, help them find a more comfortable fit, etc.)
  • Allow the two sets of children to get to know each other on their own terms without too much interference from you.
  • If they like each other, be happy!
  • EXERCISE PATIENCE EVERY STEP OF THE WAY AND REMEMBER, ROME WASN’T BUILT IN ONE DAY!

 

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