Stepmoms all over the world face a lot of unique challenges with their stepfamilies. And if you are dealing with the same dilemma as a stepmom, you are probably thinking of some ways how to cope with the issues in your own stepfamily and how you can be a successful and smart stepmom.
Building trust and a strong bond between you and your stepchildren are inevitably crucial. You cannot expect them or other family members to show you love and affection in an instant. It sometimes takes months or even years before you can get along very well. Fortunately, this kind of situation isn’t hopeless and stepmoms like you can develop a close relationship and friendship with your stepchildren eventually.
Being a smart stepmom doesn’t necessarily mean you have to compete with the children’s mother and win them over or steer them into your strict house rules and push them to comply with everything. That won’t work. It is how you can handle the challenging situations in your family.
How can you be a smart stepmom? This article will guide you out with the effective ways you can try.
Building a Relationship with the Children
You can’t expect your spouse’s child to be comfortable with you right away. Although in some stepfamilies it can happen easily, you have to understand the fact that it might be difficult for the child to accept the whole new set-up in the family: having you as a stepmom. As what psychologist William Merkel said, stepfamilies are deemed to be “the most complex, unnatural and difficult set of human relationships known to mankind.”
On the child’s standpoint, the situation might be a lot to take in. It may seem like a cinch to say how much love and care you’re willing to give to your stepchild. But don’t fall into high hopes that your stepchild will reciprocate your efforts and adjust with the situation quickly. In some instances, a stepchild may think you’re an intruder, an outsider and not a family member.
What You Can Do:
- Do not insist or require your stepchild to call you “Mom”. Time will come and you’ll know when your stepchild is ready to reach that point. Do not also be assertive with your words whenever you refer to yourself as part of the family. Although technically, you are, your stepchild may not be very comfortable with the words like “we are a family” or “you are a family to me”. Take these things step by step.
- Do not work too hard to please your stepchild and make him or her comfortable with you. Show your genuine concern to understand your stepchild’s feelings even when he or she seems distant. If you want to go for a talk, don’t act like you’re a mom with some kind of authority and the child is obliged to tell you everything. Be empathic and warm.
- You can find the opportunity to talk with your stepchildren while eating, having fun, and engaging in some activities together. And to let them know they are important to you, always make time no matter how busy you are. You can spend some time for a casual talk after shopping for groceries, after tending the household chores, and when they have already taken some rest after school. Make time for each of them and get to know them better.
- Be careful when starting a conversation. Don’t go for serious talks or any topics that you think would invade the child’s privacy.
- When your stepchild is having health problems like having flu, colds, or going through a lot of pressure in school, show your sincere interest and concern. Provide the care that your stepchild needs.
Dealing with the Child’s mother
Most stepfamilies have issues with the emerging tension between the mother and the stepmother. As a stepmom, you may encounter the same problem, too. It is a tough situation where both parties should take every step carefully. But as a stepmom, you need to make an effort and adjust to the situation without meddling with the relationship of your stepchild and his or her mother.
Do not demean the mother’s position or right by taking the obligations out of her hand. Some mothers think that stepmoms would replace them, especially the affection and care they give their children. Now that they are in a different household, mothers still have responsibilities to fulfill and the right to show their motherly love. Understand their situation.
How can you deal with the child’s mother?
What You Can Do:
- Try not to display too much affection with your stepchildren in front of their mother. You surely do not want to imply that you’re craving for competition and you want to win them over. If you are in a close relationship with your stepchildren, you can come to an agreement to not let them call you “mom” in front of their mother. It is a form of respect and a way to show you care about her feelings.
- When she offers you some advice about nurturing the children, accept it and be grateful. Do not find it as an insult that her ways are better than you. Some stepmoms think that way. But it is all part of the process of adjusting and mothers just want the best for their children.
- Clarify to your stepchildren’s mother that you don’t intend to replace her or in any way would do that. You can also seek help from her when you are looking after the children, especially on what she usually does when they feel sick and tired or have health issues.
- Message her or give her updates about the children when they are with you. In that way, the mother would feel that her presence and opinions are important.
Providing Parental Discipline
How can you establish reasonable authority and provide discipline on your stepchildren without getting way beyond the boundaries? We’re talking about your limitations here as a stepmom. Although it is your responsibility to provide parental discipline on the children and help them shape up their behavior for the better, it is not always easy to do. You might get torn by these harsh lines: You’re not my mother.
Providing discipline in children also stirs up issues and conflict between you and your spouse. It is sometimes difficult for the stepmom to discipline the children when she thinks their biological father seems too lenient or her spouse thinks otherwise.
House rules that have been set by the children’s biological mother may also affect your way of disciplining. When you tell them not to use their phones or gadgets while doing their homework or when you limit their hours of watching TV, issues arise when these rules conflict from the ones they’ve known.
What You Can Do:
- Do not use directive language. You can be polite and affable when you tell them what to do and what not to do. You can encourage them to abide by the new rules and obey you not because you have the authority as their stepmom, but because you communicate with them politely.
- Show kindness and genuine love when you discipline your stepchildren to keep the tension off. If they don’t show submissiveness, try not to irritate them by pushing them too hard to follow the new rules. Do not humiliate them.
- If you and your spouse disagree on certain house rules and in providing discipline, don’t discuss them in front of the children. Discuss these matters privately.
- When you notice a certain behavior on your stepchild, do not point out these errors as a result of poor child rearing from their biological mother. Instead, help the child improve his or her behavior by providing proper training and nurturing.
Dealing with Adult Children
Building a relationship and friendship with adult children is a different story. Their perspectives and emotions toward the situation become pretty challenging for stepmoms. Although it is a good thing to be positive and hopeful about your relationship with them, don’t fall into your high hopes and expectations. Otherwise, you’ll end up disappointed. Understand the fact that there’ll be pitfalls and possible misunderstandings.
What You Can Do:
- A relationship requires a solid foundation. You can try a lot of ways to befriend your adult stepchildren and give them the support they need. But let your relationship with them grow naturally. You should not work too hard to fit yourself in their lives. It won’t be a good move to persuade or pressure them to reciprocate your efforts and accept you as their parent.
- There are times when adult stepchildren throw out harsh comments and actions. If you feel you’re mistreated, it is not an excuse to treat them wrongly. Control your emotions and try to be calm. Show compassion.
- Be very patient. It sometimes takes a long time, months or even years, before they can accept you as their stepmom and fully realize your obligations in the family. But do not be hopeless and continue to provide the care, support, and love your adult stepchildren needs.
You Can Be a Smart and Successful Stepmom
Stepmoms face a lot of unique challenges in dealing with the members of the family. As you work on your best efforts, you can show how smart you are as a stepmom. Although getting through every trial is no picnic, there are a lot of effective ways that you can try to resolve all the issues.
Even if you feel and think you’re are not successful as a stepmom in your family, don’t be hopeless. You can try all the suggested ways mentioned. And when they don’t work out, you can always find new ways to provide effective parental discipline and how to maintain a strong relationship with your young stepchildren, their biological mother, or your adult stepchildren.
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Also published on Medium.