Some Thoughts on Step Parenting
Step parenting, if it’s to be done successfully, requires the cooperation of everyone involved. This can at times be difficult in that it’s not unusual that at least one of the parties doesn’t want do go down that road to the new life. This is usually a child, or the children, but can be a step-parent as well. Even when things go smoothly, being a step-parent can be one of the hardest jobs there is to do. It can also be a thankless one.
The Problem of Accepting and Dealing With Change
Many times, the child or children in the family will quickly accept the new step-parent. This may also happen slowly at times, but feelings of real affection soon take hold. Some children simply need a little time to adjust. Others simply refuse to accept the change, in spite of the best efforts and intentions of their new step-parent. Part of this often has to do with the child feeling it’s lost control of the environment it lives in and possibly even of itself. A child cannot be faulted for feeling this way. Many adults not only fear change, but they often have a great deal of trouble dealing with change if it should occur. Most adults learn to deal with change however, but sudden change is something that can be brand new to a child, and not knowing what to do may cause that child to either withdraw or strike out.
When things are going well in a child’s life it is easy for that child to makes decision as to what is best for him or her. When circumstances suddenly change, the child may stick to his or her beliefs and try to fit the new circumstances into those beliefs instead of the other way around.
Times to Intervene and Times Not To
A parent of a step-parent usually can’t reason with a child who is throwing a fit. The child won’t listen and the adult will only become more and more frustrated. The best time to try to connect with a child is when things are calm and the child is in a happy mood. There is still the challenge of trying not to do or say anything that might set the child off or throw it back into a black mood. One approach is to understand the child’s desire to be in control of things and to try to meet him or her halfway. This works well for some children, not quite so well for others.
Save Yourself First
A step-parent can take a page from an airline safety rule. If you are a passenger accompanied by a small child, and there is a sudden cabin pressure failure, the oxygen masks will drop down. The airline’s rule is to put your own mask on first. Only after you’ve done that you put a mask on the child. The reasoning is simple. If you pass out while trying to fit the mask on the child, you both could end up without oxygen. We are usually not taught to save ourselves first, but there are notable exceptions. In the case of step parenting the rule is to take the measures that are necessary to preserve your own sanity if a child is having a meltdown. You’ll live to fight another day, or better yet, you’ll be in a good position to help yourself, the child, and the rest of the family in the days ahead. The child will eventually outgrow its outbursts, and you want to still be around when that has happened.
Consider Reading a Good Book on the Subject
More than one person has taken note of the fact that much of the advice they have received about step parenting is from those who have never experienced the situation. If you’re looking for the best advice, seek out some one who has been there, done that. Successfully of course. Another approach is to purchase a book on the subject, preferably one that has received more than its share of good reviews.
Following is a list of eight books on the subject. They have been chosen in part because of there often clever titles, but mainly because each book has received excellent reviews.
– The Not So Wicked Stepmother by Sherrie Mackelprang
– Life in the Blender: Blending families, Lives, and Relationships with Grace by Sandi Patty
– The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Stepparenting by Erika Lutz
– I’m Not Your Kid: A Christian’s Guide to a Healthy Stepfamily by Kay P. Adams
– The Smart Stepfamily: New Seven Steps to a Healthy Family by Ron K. Deal
– The Smart Stepdad: Steps to Help You Succeed by Ron K. Deal
– Stepmonster: A New Look at Why real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do by Wednesday Martin
– The Smart Stepmom: Practical Steps to Help You Thrive by Ron K. Deal
An alternative to reading any one of these books might be to watch reruns of The Brady Bunch. In spite of a producer’s best intentions it is difficult to blend together a harmonious family in the space of a few hourly episodes. As one person expressed it, ‘step-parenting is hard work, and blending a new family is like preparing a dish that requires a long time to cook.’