Stepparents

Interview with a Stepparent...

No, I couldn't find a vampire who was also a stepparent. So I decided to interview a real, live one. This interview is important so that others can understand the experience of what is is like to co-parent as a stepparent and maybe feel less alone, find some parallels through other people's experiences, and maybe figure out how to improve their own parenting situation. I had the pleasure of interviewing Kenni J. from Florida. She is a soldier, wife, and mom to 3 kids, two of them being her stepchildren. 

Lotus Therapies|Interview with a stepparent|Cumming, GA|Lawrenceville, GA

What is the biggest struggle when adjusting to being a step parent?

                The largest struggle is learning to be an additional co-parent. Loving a child is easy, as children, especially young children, tend to offer unconditional love to anyone they feel deserving. The most difficult aspect is proving yourself to the other parent. Adults tend to still have residual emotions following a divorce and may inherently dislike their former spouses' new partner for any numerous of reasons, which may place an additional strain on your current marriage. As a step parent, you must accept that you cannot coerce the other parent to be receptive and approve of you. The other parent must decide to accept the step parent on their own volition and the reality is that the other parent may never accept the step parent.

How has stepparenting altered your view as a parent to your biological kid?

                For quite some time I was unsure if I was capable of having children. Therefore, I have loved my stepchildren as my own. I have always considered my stepson as my first child as I was a part of his life since he was a toddler. When I was blessed to have a child of my own my perspective remained the same and I still want the best for all of my children.

What would you change about challenges?

                In hindsight, the other parent in my relationship is simply unwilling to have a relationship with me therefore any changes to previous interactions would be futile. If you are dealing with a reasonable other parent, whom is not consumed by emotions, I would recommend being polite, making an introduction, and simply being respectful to the other parent. It is not necessary for you and the other parent to be the best of friends, but it is important to be cordial, especially in front of the children. If you are dealing with the spawn of Satan, simply do not engage. All interactions will be viewed as hostile and disrespectful regardless of the intent.

What is the ideal picture of your blended family?

                Ideally, my spouse and the other spouse would have a workable parenting plan that involves very little communication between the two of them. They currently have a toxic relationship that is basically unsalvageable. The best thing for all of us would be an exceptionally detailed parenting plan that allows both families to function with limited interaction. At this point, any interaction typically leads to a full-blown argument between the biological parents and exacerbates stress within the family.

Advice for step parents?

                Be prepared to be a flexible and understanding spouse. Understand that your stepchildren may not accept you or like you for quite some time. Do not attempt to “win over” the other parent with overt gestures of kindness as this will be perceived as you being disingenuous. Introduce yourself to the other parent, be respectful, and do not discipline your stepchildren without the presence of your spouse. Be aware that all of your interactions, both good and particularly bad, will be shared with the other parent. Don’t create more tension in the relationship by causing strain on the parent-child relationship.

Information like this is valuable in appreciating the difficulty of being a stepparent and seeing how you as coparent in this situation can make the experience more bearable and productive for all paries involved.

Including the Stepparent

Many separated or divorced parents make the decision to move on with their lives and seek meaningful relationships. When remarrying or deciding to be in a committed relationship, their partners take on a role of a stepparent.

Lotus Therapies|Stepparents|CoParenting|Cumming, GA|Lawrenceville, GA

Being a stepparent can be very overwhelming, challenging, and rewarding. But when a stepparent isn't supported, included on respected they could feel like the odd man out and problems and resentment start to seep into your relationship. Being the odd man out for the stepparent can feel like they are on constant pins and needles with the kids and you as their partner because they are trying to find their place and their voice in your co-parenting situation.

Lotus Therapies|Stepparents|CoParenting|Cumming, GA|Lawrenceville, GA

With the children, their needs, trying to manage the co-parenting relationship, and your own needs, the stepparent and their needs can unnoticeably take a backseat. Here are 3 tips to make sure that the stepparent feels connected and included.

Nurture Your Relationship

Stepparents need the reassurance that the co-parenting situation working for the betterment of the family unit and validation and recognition of their place in their household and in their spouse's life. Make time for each other when you can maintain your connection.Unity within the couple's relationship bridges the emotional gap between the stepparent and stepchildren and positions both adults to lead the family.

Lotus Therapies|Stepparents|CoParenting|Cumming, GA|Lawrenceville, GA

 

Communicate! Then Communicate Some More.

Just as the lines of communication is imperative for co-parents, it is also important for stepparents and their partners. Rather than being silent in their resentment, stepparents should express their need to have their contributions recognized and acknowledged (Grace, Elizabeth, 2017).  Stepparents can find it hard to find their barrings and need to be able to talk with their partners on how they feel, how to address issues that come up with the children, and what their role looks like as a stepparent where everyone is feels validated and their needs are being met. 

 

Just a little Respect.

Respect is a big part of the foundation of any relationship. Just as your relationship took the time to grow and flourish it will take time for the stepparent and child to bond. Respecting the process, having discussions about the new family unit and how it will be managed is key to building a strong foundation. A stepparent will have their own views, values, and beliefs that they will bring to the relationship and those should be respected and acknowledged. But as parents and partners communication about how parenting, discipline, and co-parents should be handled will be ongoing and partners must come to an agreement they are comfortable with implementing in their daily lives. Another important aspect of respect is between the stepparent and the child. Both the child and the stepparent should show each other a level of respect. This is always best displayed rather than verbalized because children do as you do not as you say--usually. If a child feels safe with the stepparent and not pushed into a relationship with them respect comes a little bit easier. Stepparents also must display respect for the children and the other parent (your ex) by being considerate of boundaries, communicating with honesty, and helping to keep the peace.

Although step-parenting can be difficult it can also be rewarding and help to create loving connections. Stepparents should be acknowledged for their roles, heard, included in decisions and planning, and the marriage or romantic relationship should be nurtured to make sure that your relationship and family unit is solid. 

 

References:

Grace, Elizabeth (2017, May 27). Dealing with Feelings of Resentment as a Stepparent. Being a Stepparent. Retrieved from http://www.beingastepparent.co.uk/dealing-with-feelings-resentment-stepparent.html

Deal, Ron (2002). Stepparenting: It Takes Two. Focus on the Family. Retrieved from http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/single-blended-family-parenting/blended-families/stepparenting-it-takes-two