Tag Archives: Blended Families

Disciplining As A Team

Probably one of the more notable challenges of raising kids is adjusting to the various lifestyles and attitudes each member of the parenting team (a married couple, a divorced couple, stepparents) bring to the table. My step kids were old enough, when their biological mother left, to remember some differences between her style (everything from clothing to discipline to attitude) and mine, and their father had been a single dad for almost two years and was very independent about everything.  The kids had been, from my perspective, somewhat coddled in the inevitable guilt that follows divorce.

While our differences were probably what made our relationship and marriage so much more successful than the first marriages we each had ended, it also challenged (and continues to challenge us occasionally) us to some degree – particularly with how to handle child-rearing issues. What is funny is that some of the frustrations I had with my stepkids when they were young Dave now has with our kids as they go through the same phases. (Yes, that makes me laugh a little).

We make every effort to stay consistent with discipline, not only because there is less commotion, over-reaction, and overall frustration (hence less household tension) but also because we want to become architects at keeping the focus on the issues. This is an excerpt from Shadra’ s book, Stories From a StepMom, available on Amazon Kindle. Read more or request a review copy.

Inheriting Teenage Stepchildren

When you marry into a family and inherit teenage stepchildren, you will encounter a different set of challenges than if you marry into a family with younger children. Older children, particularly tweens and teens, are already struggling to establish an identity of their own and establish a place within the family that is more concrete and individual. When you come along as step parent and rock the boat, it can cause a great deal of stress for the teen.

One thing to realize when becoming a step parent to a teenager is that the more you can respect him or her as an individual and the better you are able to treat him or her like a person separate from the biological parent you have married, the more likely you will be to gain his or her respect.

Talk to and treat your teen stepchild the way you wish to be treated and talked to. Teens, biological and step alike, are notorious for being experts at making adults lose their otherwise even tempers, but the better you are able to remain calm or even walk away when you have to, the easier you will be able to manage a real relationship with your teen stepchild.

You have a real opportunity with your step children to develop the relationship that will take them into adulthood. Teens struggle with so many things — peer pressure, future life, self-esteem, school — that another positive role model in their lives can be very helpful. However, most teens will initally feel threatened by your presence, so be straight with them. Let them know that you respect them and aren’t there to interfere, that you want to be a part of their lives but that you don’t expect them to think of you as Mom or Dad.

Don’t try to win their admiration by being the “cool” parent who provides alcohol or lets them get away with everything. Be clear about supporting the expectations of the household, but be there, too. Be patient and allow the relationship to build slowly. Step parents are often the “safest” people teens have to talk to — and they may turn to you for advice on everything from relationships to school problems if you give them the chance.

Advice for New Stepparents

Being a stepparent can be fulfilling, enriching, and rewarding … but it can be stressful, frustrating, and depressing as well.  Particularly in the beginning of your new role as a stepparent, your emotions will probably feel like they are bouncing all over the place.  Not only are you building a new life with the person you fell in love with and married but you are also expected to fill a role beyond that of spouse, and that can be very intimidating.

The step-parenting role differs from family to family.  In some cases, you will see the stepchildren very rarely (every other weekend a month and a couple weeks during the summer).  In other cases, the stepchild(ren) may live with you all the time.  In either case (and all of those cases in between), adjusting to your new role can be a difficult process.

Hopefully, before you married, you and your partner spent a great deal of time talking about each other’s expectations and ideals.  Hopefully, you had plenty of time to get to know your new stepchildren and they had time to adjust to the idea of your arrival into the midst of their family.  Whether you had a long time to prepare or the situation was thrust upon you, there are things you can do to make the process easier for everyone.

•Understand that everyone’s emotions, not just yours, are probably off-kilter as a result of the new family unit.  Be patient.

•Don’t expect everything to go well from the beginning; allow everyone space and time to get to know each other and learn each other’s quirks.

•Talk with your spouse about setting down certain ground rules right away.  It’s important to establish an expectation of respect immediately.  Your stepchildren can have time to adjust, but that doesn’t mean they should be allowed to be disrespectful, mean, or vicious.

•Address issues immediately.  Talk with the children – don’t preach to them – about your desire to build a successful blended family.  Address and acknowledge their concerns and their feelings.

•As the stepparent, you are often the “new” person, the variable who changes everything.  It can be unsettling, and often your own insecurities can be the cause of some of the early struggles.  Talk about your feelings with your spouse and let them know when you are having difficulties.  Be sure to take time alone together to build your marriage; don’t spend all of your energy on the kids.

Take it one day at a time. You and your stepchildren will get to know each other better.  Day by day, your role as a stepparent will become more defined and comfortable.

Have you read Shadra’ s book, Stories From a StepMom, available on Amazon Kindle? Read more or request a review copy.

The Value of Stepparents

What challenges we stepfamilies face! Not only are we adjusting to a new relationship, a new marriage, and perhaps a new home, but we’re doing it with extra people in the mix who also have needs, demands, and insecurities about the changes life has brought them.  It’s no wonder so many of us give up, throw our hands in the air and decide it is too hard.  No wonder so many of us end up divorcing again, leaving remnants of yet another broken family in our path.

Stepparenting is difficult. You do all the work of a parent, in most cases, either full time or part time, but get none of the recognition. You raise the children, love the children, financially support the children, and guide them through life, mostly from an unseen and under-appreciated place in the family tree – not that there is even a line for you there!

Throughout the time that Dave and I have been raising our kids, we’ve had our share of challenges.  The kids went to one school that refuses to grant me the right to even sign permission slips for my stepkids, even though I was the one who handled all the day-to-day “stuff,” without having a form signed by my husband allowing it.  When we wanted to obtain guardianship of our son when he turned 18, because he has Down Syndrome and we still care for him, we had to have his biological mother sign off on it.  Step parents are often undervalued and underappreciated.

This month, we celebrate National Stepfamily Day. Stepfamily Day is celebrated every year on September 16.  It is worth celebrating; more than 33% of us in the United States are involved in a step relationship and 1300 new stepfamilies are formed nearly each day in our country.  The definition of “family” is definitely changing.

With that change needs to come, perhaps, a change in attitude and perception concerning stepparents.  It is time to recognize the larger role stepparents play in the lives of children.  Stepmothers are not wicked; stepchildren are not to be led into the forest and fed to the witch who lives there or denied their shot at the prince.  Stepparents fulfill a key role and fill a gap in a child’s life and heart that might otherwise go empty. It’s time that the meaning of family is updated to recognize all of those people who contribute to the happiness of a child.

Get Shadra’ s book, Stories From a StepMom, available on Amazon Kindle.

Shadra Bruce Appears as Guest Expert on World Parent Summit Panel

To Listen to the Interview Click Here

Shadra Bruce, leading parenting expert and author of the Stories from a StepMom series, was the guest expert at the 2009 World Parent Summit teleseminar sponsored by Norbert Georget.

Feel free to listen to the recorded interview and submit your questions and comments.

Georget is the author of NO-NONSENSE PARENTING FOR TODAY’S TEENAGER – How To Feel Like A Good Parent Even When Your Teenager Hates You.

Get Shadra’ s book, Stories From a StepMom, available on Amazon Kindle.