Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Maturity And Stepfamily Success - Part 2

Today I am going to further expand on the topic of maturity and stepfamily success. Although maturity is just one of the building blocks that's helpful in achieving success in the stepfamily department, it is a very important one. Please read on: 


I don’t know any step-parent who hasn’t had his or her share of that. Unpleasantness often is the “ex’s” second name – his/her first name usually cannot be mentioned in public!  And doesn’t that cause the most incredible frustration? Some of the step-folk I assist complain how they begin every day with the best of intentions, but the moment they have to deal with their own, and even more often, their partner’s “ex” all goodwill just flies out of the window and they are left hopping mad, climbing the walls, grinding their teeth, seething with fury…and often with good reason.

The capacity to face unpleasantness and frustration for YOU, the step-parent, means:

* The recognition that living with children who have a biological mother or father living in another household or in memory is bound to cause difficulties.
* The determination not to take your partner’s “ex’s” anger, hatred, spite, jealousy etc. personally.
* The resolve not to be put out or pushed into retaliation mode by your stepchildren’s behaviour.
* That you can never replace the step-child’s biological parent no matter how much you may wish to or how hard you may try.
* Understanding that your fantasy (nuclear) image of a family consisting of mum, dad, 2 kids and a dog cannot ever come to pass if he has 3 kids, you have one and a new baby is on the way.


No, it doesn’t mean that you can’t ever be annoyed, have a different opinion from your mate or get angry. What is required,  however, is that you need to deal with your anger in a constructive fashion, that you don’t withdraw, pout for days, play ‘no speakies’, turn into an ‘ice queen’ or that you get violent and/or destructive.

For you, the step-parent, this means:

*Being aware of the things that cause your angry feelings.
*Recognizing that whilst  your anger is usually triggered by another person, it is in your control and therefore it is your responsibility how you respond.
* Being willing to deal with your anger in a constructive fashion.
*Talking the anger issues through with either: the 'offender', your partner, a trusted and wise friend and/or a therapist.
* Learning (and diligently practicing) conflict resolution skills.
* Developing tolerance.
*Recognizing that you are not always right and developing the ability to say “I am sorry”.


Stepparents have made a most important decision - to become a significant person in the lives of a number of people. It’s essential to remember that this decision will have lasting consequences not only in your own life, but also in the lives of all the members of your stepfamily.

For you, the step-parent, this means:

* Remembering that it was YOUR decision to say “I do”, especially at those times when it feels like it has been a bad decision.
* Hanging in there when the going gets tough.
* Recalling at those tough times why you’ve made that choice in the first place e.g. “I married Jim because I love him”.
* Recommitting yourself to doing whatever it takes to make your family situation work e.g. taking a stepfamily or couples’ relationship course, learning about child development and/or child raising issues, informing yourself about stepfamily challenges and issues, utilizing a counselling service etc.
Recognizing that nothing that is worthwhile and of lasting value comes without a price.

Stay tuned for the next maturity in stepfamilies instalment next week. 

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