Monday, April 29, 2013

Secrets Of Successful Stepfamilies - Part 2


Some wise person stated that a little appreciation can go a long way. This is most certainly true for step-parents. They, like every other person on the planet want to be acknowledged for how well they are doing (even if they are struggling every step of the way),  want to know that their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, that their good will is recognized….simply that they are appreciated. As it isn’t particularly likely that step kids will swamp their step mum or step dad in words of appreciation, it is really, really important that the step-parent’s partner does.

So, how about trying statements like:

“The kids are really lucky to have you as their dad/mum”!
“I just love it when I see you kick a ball around with the kids, that’s so great for them”!
“Thanks for cooking such a delicious dinner – we all appreciate it”!
“I know how hard it is for you when the boys come for the weekend – I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you are so patient and try so hard”!

Other ways of expressing your appreciation could be:

Buying her flowers.
Taking him/her out for a special dinner.
Writing love notes.
Surprising him/her with an unexpected gift.
Whisking your partner away for a weekend (to a kids free zone)

COMMUNICATION…the be all and the end all of SUCCESSFUL relationships!:

Although we all seem to labour under this strange illusion at one time or another, our partner cannot know how we are feeling, what we are thinking - our wants, needs, hopes and dreams - unless we tell them. And the more honest we can be in this sharing, the better our chances of being understood, having those needs met, our hopes and dreams realized.

Communication is a two way street that has a number of components. It requires an ability to verbalize our thoughts and feelings in a non-threatening way and a willingness to listen in a way that lets the partner know they’ve been heard and understood. It requires an openness to the partner’s experience, an ability to acknowledge their opinions (whether we share them or not), a tolerance for differences and, last but not least, the courage to deal with conflict. Although many of us are terrified of conflict, especially if our last relationship broke up because of turmoil created by it, conflict can be seen as a friend rather than an enemy. Effective communication as well as conflict (which is part of any relationship) require learning and practice.

This, as you surely appreciate, is a big subject. As I don’t want this newsletter to turn into an epic saga, I’ll merely elaborate on the small aspects of listening, understanding and acknowledging for the moment. More on this subject will be covered in the Tuesday Tips section of the website and is also covered in my book “Hell…p! I'm a Stepmother”.

*Listening*  - You listen when you focus all your attention (physically and emotionally) on the speaker (your partner/child/stepchild etc). This means you don’t glance over the top of your newspaper (or worse continue reading it), you don’t fidget, turn your back, interrupt, assume that you’ve hear all of the message after hearing the first two words, leap into problem solving mode as soon as you think you’ve got the gist of the message, pretend you’re listening when you aren’t etc. As this type of listening may take some practice if you aren’t used to it, it may necessitate making special “together time”, uninterrupted, away from distractions.

*Understanding* - You understand  (and the speaker will feel understood) when he or she knows that you’ve not only heard  the words they’ve spoken, but get the gist of what they are aiming to express. Thus hearing and understanding often are two different things. If you listen carefully you hear the actual words that were spoken, but unless you hear, as it were, with a “third ear”, you won’t necessarily have understood. Hearing with the magical third ear means comprehending the context of the communication, paying close attention to the speaker’s body language, checking whether what you believe you’ve heard is actually what the speaker has been saying. This can be done by repeating what you’ve heard in your own words and asking whether you’ve understood correctly.

*Acknowledging* – You acknowledge the speakers message by allowing it to be whatever it is. If you like it, dislike it, agree with it or perhaps think it’s utter gobbeldigook, you simply accept it for what it is. Everyone has a right to their opinion whether the listener considers it accurate or not. There is no law that says that the speaker (your partner or anyone else for that matter) has to agree with you. Some wise person once made the interesting comment: “If the two of us agreed on everything one of us would be superfluous”. If we could always remember this very pertinent truth, we’d have nowhere near as much conflict in our lives.

Active listening, understanding and acknowledging the speaker’s message all create a great platform for emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy is an essential basis to relationship success.

Great communication starters are:

* ”Have I told you today that I love you?”
* “Did you know that you are gorgeous, wonderful, special, precious, marvallous………….etc.?”
* “You are such a spunk!”
* “You must be the best step-kid in the world!!”
* “The way you did that was really amazing!!”

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