Hello, my name is Laura Young and I am Co-founder of X2X, Inc. We are working really hard to produce a product for separating and divorced families that will bring all the chaos to a more than manageable level. While all that is in production, we will continue to discuss important topics on the blog. ON THAT NOTE if there is a specific topic that you would like to see addressed, please get in touch via the comments section, or in the Contact tab.
While searching through the internet for sound advice for the stepparent population of our audience, I came across this blog post by Jackie Pilossoph of Divorced Girl Smiling. She talks about the difficult position of the “newcomer” to the family unit and developing a good relationship with your new partner’s children. As the “newcomer” myself, I related to the problem she addressed. How do you develop a good, healthy relationship with your stepchildren? (Or step children-to-be in my case.) And why is it such a hard thing to do in the first place? This information applies to the potential stepdads out there too!
Here are some factors that Jackie suggests we consider:
This is what I’ve learned over the years. No one’s boyfriend’s kids hate them. IT’S NOT PERSONAL!!!!!!
This is great to keep in the back of your mind when navigating these new situations.
Personally, I was very lucky. My kids (something they gave me permission to call them, after being together for three years) were very open and accepting of me. We did have the “what am I supposed to call you” question. Easy answer: Laura. And when their dad and I got engaged we talked about how “stepmom” has a negative connotation and we should come up with our own term. “Lunatic” or “Lauratic” was settled on and I couldn’t be happier or more proud to be Lunatic to four amazing kids. (If you are confused, I promise I have earned this title in only the best sense of the word.)
I’d like to attribute my good relationship with these kids to a few things. First of all, their parents raised them to be open and accepting to new people in their lives. Secondly, I always did my best to treat them with respect and as their own person. We talked a lot about how I’m not replacing anyone in their lives, I’m just someone else who cares a lot about them and will do what I can to support them.
And thirdly, the excellent communication they have with their father. He explained to them from the beginning that he would never try to find a replacement for their mother and that’s not what I could ever be. They have a great mom already and no one is trying to take her spot. Along with that, he also explained (as painful as it probably was to hear) that there was no chance that he and their mom would get back together. Their reasons for splitting are their own, and it doesn’t mean that they both don’t love their kids as much as they ever did. Even though it may have sounded harsh, we were creating a foundation of truth. If we tell you the truth, we are respecting you and expect the same in return.
Okay, so you’ve said the words, but here comes the hard part: walking the walk. When you are standing and looking at a 10-year-old boy who is overtired, and frustrated and saying things that you know he doesn’t mean but are hurtful anyway, what do you do? Add in that you are also overtired and have stressful things going on in your life as well. You stay calm. You say that you want to help them, but you are asking that they show you the respect you show them and you give them a chance to do it. You talk about the fact that fitted sheets and duvet covers frustrate you too sometimes and you work to fix the problem together. Sounds really nice doesn’t it? Okay well in real life, sometimes you do lose your cool. In real life you show how annoyed you are that they just dragged clean laundry all through the house and don’t want to make their bed. Now, your already frustrated kiddo just got yelled at and nothing positive has been accomplished. Apologize. Show them that being an adult means you can make mistakes but also own it and say sorry.
Speaking of good communication, here is what I believe to be the make-it-or-break-it factor in stepparent – stepchild relationships. You have to be on the same page with your new partner and they have to back you up. Decide together what the expectations are between you and his kids. If you are not being treated with respect and their father allows that behavior to continue, you’re toast. He is teaching them that it is okay not to respect you. (Hint: that might say something about HIS respect for you too!) Good communication between EVERYONE is so so important – this may be a reoccurring theme!