The slow, almost tedious climbs, the unexpected turns and shocking drops that feel like the world has disappeared from under you, the exhilarating ride. Being a step parent feels a little like that sometimes. That is not to say that being in a blended family is like a day at the amusement park, but most step moms and step dads can identify with the comparison.
Step parents need not seek approval
You feel like you finally have a handle on what makes your step kids tick. You have figured out what makes them mad, what makes them laugh, and now and then you catch a glimpse of what makes them happy. Then one day one of your step kids looks at you as if you are totally stupid, or at the very least, woefully inadequate. If you think about it, you sometimes get it wrong with your own biological kids, too, but you feel less like a failure if your own kids roll their eyes at you or rail at something you said. Somehow, as a step mom or a step dad, you feel you have to gain the approval of your step kids. You do not.
Step parents rule!
Whether your step kids like it or not, you are married to their parent, and are not there on approval. While it is your obligation and your joy to always be caring and considerate, and to model that behavior for everyone in your blended family, it is important that there be no misunderstanding about who is in charge. Step kids who try to hold the adults in their life as emotional hostages are usually in pain, and need our understanding and support. Unhappy children, however, can gain nothing from a step parent who caves in to disrespectful or arrogant behavior, or to outright aggression. Just as you learned to live with disapproval from your bio kids, you must accept it from your step kids, too. Why? Because they are all your kids, both bio and step kids; they are all part of the same blended family, and in a blended family, everyone gets treated the same.
Your blended family is a unit which needs maintenance and repair
As with any growing and changing organization, your blended family needs regular maintenance and upkeep. Routinely review your plan to manage your blended family, and make any necessary revisions or establish needed re-training programs to make sure everyone is still working toward a common goal. As a caring and supportive blended family, the needs and rights of all your members must be nurtured as well as protected. As a flexible step parent who is not intimidated by the challenge and able to help your step kids feel like you are all part of the same family, you can make your blended family goals more achievable. Love your kids. All of them. Love and accept them for who they are, and in turn, eventually, they may just come around. Above all, try not to obsess about the struggles! Struggles will always be there; how we meet them is what makes the difference! Step moms and step dads who make the biggest contributions in the lives of their step kids are generally the ones who made being step parents a labor of love.
The roller coaster ride that is step parenthood is a long one, thrilling, full of surprises, a little scary and not for the faint of heart, but the kind of experience that makes you feel like you’ve achieved something once you survive it! For further information, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.