Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How To Support Your Partner In Their Stepparenting Role - Part 3

**SUPPLY (your partner) WITH THE NECESSARY**

What are the necessities of life?

The obvious and tangible ones are physical safety, a roof over our head, healthy food in our tummy, a job that
provides financial security, the knowledge that medical care is available should it be needed, and so on…..

The less obvious and intangible, yet equally important ones, are:

* A feeling of value and worth – so that we can feel proud of ourselves.
* Other people’s respect – so we know others think highly of us.
* The knowledge that we are contributing – so we feel we are making a difference in this world.
* Satisfying communication – so we can verbalise our thoughts and feelings and clear up misunderstandings.
* Appreciation – so we know our efforts are noticed and considered worthwhile.
* Love – so we know we are not alone in the world. 

All these are not only important to you but also to your partner. Be sure you supply them with an abundance of those necessities.

**BACK (your partner) UP**

Stepparents need backing up every step of the way. When you hear your child’s furious exclamation: “She can’t tell me what to do, she isn’t my real mother!” the best thing you can do is to back your partner up and say something like: “No, she isn’t your real mother, but she is the one who calls the shots in this house and I expect you to listen to her and to obey her.”

Children love to play a game called ‘divide and conquer’ and the moment they detect even the smallest crack in your couples’ armour, that’s the game they will play. In order to have a happy partner and happy, contented children, it is essential to stand united.

A client’s example:

(Client’s examples are sheared with their permission – no real names are used and their identity is disguised in the interest of confidentiality) 

Beck never quite knew how to deal with her partner’s children when they mucked up. She, who’d never had any difficulty enforcing the house rules with her own children, was at her wit’s end when it came to his kids. She felt that it was Grant’s responsibility to enforce the same rules with them that she insisted on with hers.

After a couple of session during which we clarified each partner’s role in disciplining their other’s children, Beck and Grant felt confident that whilst they could not expect a journey without storms, their family ship was definitely headed in the right direction.

You can back up your partner by:

* Letting your children know that you don’t expect them to love your partner, but that you do expect that they treat them with respect.
* Standing beside your mate as they stand their ground with your children – this is only appropriate once you’ve worked out between the two of you what you expect of the children – (your expectations need to be age appropriate and reasonable).
* Confirm to your children what the consequences of their misbehaviour will be – (this needs to be equally age
appropriate and reasonable).
* Ensure that you carry out these consequences - should this become necessary.

Excerpt from “’Hell…p! I’m a Stepmother”:

It is a most important aspect of the couple relationship that you stand united before the children. In dealing with them, it is absolutely essential that you support each other. Children, especially in stepfamily situations,
sometimes attempt to divide and conquer. Nothing has quite the same potential to cause a step-parent to feel left out, useless and helpless as when their partner sides with their children. This, more than any other
difficulty one might encounter, has the power to annihilate the couple relationship. Feelings of guilt, over-protectiveness, the desire to make things up to the children, fear of their partner acting unfairly, or a number
of other reasons cause almost all biological parents in a stepfamily situation to fall into this trap at least once. Whilst understandable, this must be guarded against at all costs. Such a situation not only questions the
position of the new step-parent but also diminishes their authority in the eyes of the children. If either of you have overstepped your mark, this certainly needs to be discussed and worked out – but it should be done
away from the children’s eyes and ears. In order to avoid such situations, it is important to be clear on the expectations you each have of the children, and to ensure they are realistic and well defined. It also helps to
remember that the expectations of children need to be kept age-appropriate and, at least in the early days of the new family’s formation, should be few and flexible. Standing united in this matter helps the stepparent
feel valued and respected and gives the children feelings of stability and security.

If your partner isn’t backed up by you, they will feel undermined, trapped, voice-less and useless and there is no way that either you or your children will find any happiness with someone who feels this way.

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