The Brady Bunch did seem to have it all together, didn’t they? But if you are part of a blended family, then the chances that you will need to deal with problems now and then are a given. We give you tips that will help you avoid the stereotypical ‘evil stepmother/father’ tag.
With a rise in the number of divorces and an increase in second marriages, combined families are not so unusual anymore. There are several families which have step parenting dynamics in place. Introducing your partner or potential spouse to your child can be a huge step in itself, and conditioning your children to the idea of a new (and in several cases, additional) parent figure can be quite difficult with stepchildren and stepparents both having to fight preconceived notions.
Often the relationship suffers, especially due to lack of experience and because the basis of the relationship is a guesswork game. Several thousands of people are stuck in similar situations, with studies showing that there are more step families than biological families in the US. Many of these step parents have absolutely no idea as to how to go about becoming a parent to someone else’s child. Most parents will attest to the many problems you can often face with children. In the case of step parents, these problems only become greater in magnitude. We look at some of the most common questions that stepparents ask.
My partner’s children refuse to accept me as a part of their life. They ignore me and more often than not make me feel invisible. What do I do?
Acceptance of a new adult in one’s life can take some time. In your case, you may bear the brunt of the fears and frustration that your partner’s children are experiencing. Try to understand that the initial rejection is probably their way of showing their loyalty to their biological parent. As the adult, it is up to you to be patient with your stepchildren. It will take them time and space to get used to you and develop a relationship that is trusting. Try to take an active interest in their lives and interests. This may become the starting point of a strong relationship.
My husband and I have a combined family and we live with his two sons and my daughter. His younger son and my daughter are constantly bickering and don’t give anyone in the household a moment’s peace. How do I deal with this situation?
The best thing to do in such a case would actually be to not interfere at all. If you do intervene, you may seem like you are siding with either one of them which can put you in a tight spot. If you think you can have a non-biased conversation with them, then do so. Tell them that you understand that the situation is difficult for them but you know that both of them are mature enough to sort out their differences. As the parent, assign them chores that they need to do together so that they learn to work as a team. Set aside time every week or month when the entire family comes together to have an open conversation. Plan family outings and vacations to encourage friendship between all members. This will create a feeling of having a sound support system that everyone can depend on.
Every time I make a decision that my stepdaughter does not like, she complains to her father who then proceeds to do what she wants. While I understand that he wants to avoid bitterness, he is undermining my importance and this is causing a problem in our relationship. How do I explain this to him?
The only way to deal with a situation like this is to talk it out with your partner. Explain to him how you feel when he undermines your decisions. You both will need to sit down and discuss the rules that you need to establish in the house and also discuss your parenting roles. There should be a joint decision regarding the things that your stepdaughter needs to do. You haven’t mentioned if she lives with you or visits you over the weekends. If it is the latter, then ensure that she is aware of the ground rules and ask your husband to explain this to her. Also your partner and you need to ensure that any parenting argument you have is never discussed in front of your daughter.
My partner and I belong to different faiths and have decided to have a secular household so that we can continue to practice our religious beliefs. My stepson goes out of his way to put down my faith and behave in an irreverent manner. What should I do?
In such a situation, the first thing you need to do is understand the root cause of his behavior. Is the intolerance a way of acting out against you or is there any other cause? Speak to your partner and explain the situation to him. Tell him that your stepson’s behavior and remarks affect you considerably and it is becoming increasingly difficult for you to deal with it. Your partner will be the best person to speak to him and explain to him how his behavior is not only disrespectful to you but also morally wrong.
My partner’s ex constantly badmouths me in front of my stepdaughter. This is causing major friction between my stepdaughter and me. How do I fix it?
This is a situation wherein you will need your partner’s help and support. It is important that your partner be aware that there is such a situation, and then in all probability you and your partner will need to sit down with your stepdaughter and explain to her how hurtful her mother’s behavior is. This will need that you handle the situation delicately so that it does not come across as though you are badmouthing her mother in retaliation. Also, lead by example. Talk about the things that you appreciate about her mother. Children are more mature than we give them credit for and definitely learn from what they see. If it comes to a situation where it becomes extremely difficult to deal with constant badmouthing, then your partner may need to have a conversation with his ex-wife.
My stepchildren constantly compare me to their mother. How do I explain to them that it is not a competition?
In cases where your stepchildren have lost their parent, you may appear to them to be a replacement. In cases where the parents have divorced, the children may view you as someone vying for their loyalty. In both cases you have to establish yourself as someone who is not only a parent figure but also a friend. Let them know that it is completely okay for them to talk to you about their other parent. Ensure that when you talk about their parent you always talk about them with respect. This will make your stepchild see that you are not vying for the same place as their parent. Gaining their respect will take time. Show them appreciation, love and loyalty and you will, with time, enjoy their confidence and earn their respect.
My husband has a daughter from a previous marriage who stays with us on weekends. I get along quite well with her and we have a lot of fun together. But both my husband and I are unsure of how she should address me. We asked her to call me by my name but she does not want to do that. Can you give me some suggestions.
This can be a tricky situation. In most cases, asking a stepchild to call the stepparent by their name can be the best solution. But if this has been vetoed by your stepdaughter, then there are some other ideas you can try. You can come up with a shorter version of your name that only she uses. If she has a nickname for you that she uses affectionately let that be the name she uses to refer to you. Some kids are comfortable with the idea of using ‘Aunt’. These are some options that you could use. In any case, do not use ‘Mom’ or anything that is closely related as that can be a bone of contention with her biological mother.
The problems that you will face with your stepchild will differ depending upon the age of the stepchild. If you are becoming the step parent to a toddler, then your problems are going to be minimal, compared to entering an established household with teenagers. The issues may multiply, if you have kids as well and you and your partner are moving in together with your respective families. There may be several occasions wherein conflicts with your stepchildren will lead to problems with your partner. It is up to both of you to ensure that any problems that you face are handled with utmost care and delicacy.
This May Also Help
- Meet your stepchild before your partner and you take the final decision to get married or even live together. It is important that you develop a relationship with your partner’s child.
- Go on outings together. Try to find out what his/her interests are, and try to plan your trips around these likings. This may be a little difficult with older children. It is important that you try and develop a friendly and strong relationship with your stepchild.
- Do not expect to have an instantaneous relation with the kid; it will take time for him/her to trust and like you, especially because there will be constant comparisons with their biological parent.
- Give the kids their share of influence in family decisions. Ensure that you respect the choices that your stepchild makes. If your step children do not stay with you but visit you on weekends, then make sure that they feel like a part of the family. Give them their own space.
- Issues can often result from infringement of space (or what they consider their space). Therefore it is a good idea to shift into a new house, especially if you are combining families, as this starts both sets of kids on neutral ground.
- If you get along famously with your stepchild and are planning to initiate the adoption process, then talk to your kid about the effects of this move and ensure that he/she will be happy. This step will make the child your legal heir. If you have stepchildren, in intestacy (the situation of being or dying without a legally valid will), according to law, your step kids have no right to your property, if they are not legally adopted. Ensure that they are aware of this.
While it is easy to write an article on how to deal with these issues, and give suggestions, in reality the situation may definitely be a lot tougher (or easier). Hopefully, you will have it easy.