Blending Families

12th May 2015 | By More

Here are five common myths about blending families, that keep families apart:

  1. Don’t be their Mom, be their friend – It was about a few months in when a friends of my significant other muttered this very statement. It was followed up by “He already has aunts, grandma and me, he doesn’t need anyone else.” Those words are as fresh in my mind as the day she spoke them. What I should have said was this: Last time I checked, his mother hasn’t been in his life for years. Furthermore, aunts are aunts, grandmas are grandmas and you are a friend. Therefore, looks like the Mom position is currently vacant, so I am just going to go right ahead and slip into whatever role his father and I choose. Instead of course I sat there with the deer in the headlights stare and a broken heart. This is solely a decision that is left up to the people whom it affects, your spouse, your stepchild and yourself.
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  2. Don’t be the disciplinarian – Okay, let me get this straight. What you are saying is that if the child misbehaves with me, I need to wait until his father comes home to rectify that? Or, if I see him misbehaving even when his father is home, I am supposed to run to his father and tattle that he is doing something wrong and make him deal with it? No way, not happening, NO. Let me explain why in two reasons. First, respect is built by setting expectations and firm foundations and allowing the go around or discipline to be doled about by someone else, is less effective. That simply permits the child to be disrespectful and to misbehave until dad gets home. The second reason is, have you ever asked your husband to take the garbage out? It can take days! Discipline needs to be done in the moment, direct and efficient for it to work.
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  3. Stepchildren should be allowed to misbehave – When venting to friends about the difficulties in blended families and building a relationship with your stepchild, you hear the difference in responses when the conversation of ill behaviours arise. When you are talking about your biological child’s misbehaviour to another parent the responses are, “Oh, yes, they get bitchy when their periods are coming’ or “Oh, I would have grounded her until she was 16!”. Not with stepchildren. Those responses are “Oh, she must be going through a lot. You need to love her through this phase” or “Well, consider how she feels, she’s angry, lost and confused, she just needs patience”. While I can give the benefit of the doubt and show compassion like any other parent for a majority of situations, I am not an idiot. Sometimes, kids are little jerks and do bad things and misbehave. All kids do. They all need the same reaction and same treatment, no different. Same love, same discipline, same.
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  4. It is easier without the other parent’s involvement – Really? For who? The child? Or me? I used to believe this myth. I was wrong. My stepson’s mother is not involved except maybe three time a year, by phone, if that. Yesterday was the first day of school and, all day my mind was overrun by thoughts like; will she call? Why didn’t she call? Who does that? Sure, I made sure to ask him about his first day and I made sure to take those all important first day photographs. His father and I took care of the school clothes and the school supplies, without one care or concern from her. She is not involved with him, but she lives permanently in my head, rent free. She lives as the fear I have that she will never call or that she will call. The fear that she will never come back for him or that she will come back one day. The fear that she will always be the one he wants, because he so badly wants her to want him. I worry that she will let him down either way and there will be nothing I can do to prevent that heartbreak.
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  5. You will eventually grow to love them and they will love you – I’ve never been one to blow smoke up anyone’s skirt, but nonetheless, this is not always the case. Sure there are some gloriously unified step families that just work. However, there are plenty of blended families who live to respect their parent’s choices and live a life without a bond or love for their stepparent. In the same sense, there are stepparents who tolerated their stepchildren until they were old enough to live on their own. A stepparent / stepchild relationship can’t and shouldn’t be forced. If it happens naturally and effortlessly, that is fantastic and makes life that much easier. But, don’t be surprised or feel doomed if it doesn’t happen for you right away, or at all. You can still foster a relationship with mutual care and respect.

Contrary to popular belief, no one really has the answers on how to be the best stepparent. There are plenty of articles and advice from those who have lived it and, while those should be respected if only as a differing point of view, you don’t have to agree. You need to do what is best for you and your stepfamily. For me, I choose to be the mom. not the friend to all my children, step or otherwise. My significant other and I are the two leading adults in our home and partners in the responsibility for raising healthy, happy and well adjusted children who we chose to love, care and discipline regardless of the person or whose child is whose. Children and stepchildren are the same. Period. Maybe, one day the lack of involvement from the other parent will change, maybe it won’t. Don’t allow that to limit your involvement. Love your stepchildren / stepparents as best you can. If you have to fake it at first, do that. It it’s not there, respect them.

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This article, written by Jessica James, originally appeared on divorcedmoms.com

Posted by Sinta Ebersohn (Creator of fairdivorce.co.za – Stellenbosch RSA)


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Category: Blended Families, Practical

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