I've had such a massive and overwhelmingly positive response to my blog today. Its fantastic to know we aren't alone in this scary step parenting world, and I love to know I'm helping some of you <3
Right so, now we have that sorted- today I've been thinking about the Dos and Don'ts of Step Parenting. Its a bit of a mine field at the best of times and having searched through about 20 articles I can't honestly say I've found one that applies to real life. It's all very well saying 'Do have a grateful attitude' but that's really hard at times. Days when your step child has drawn up the wall, spat out the food you spent hours making and refused to talk to you at the amusement park you drove them too (and paid for) makes being grateful a bit of a mission. 'Do have weekly family meetings and make sure your on the same page as your spouse and your ex'. I know- lets all laugh together. Clearly these people have never actually been step parents.
Being a step parent means coming into a family unit that already have their own ways and traditions. That might include things you don't agree with. Over time things should and will change to incorporate your thoughts and perspectives, and as a result behaviours and practises will also change. But its a stupidly long process, one that nearly all of us at some time or another considers walking away from.
I'm 3 years in and by no means the most experienced step mum out there. However, I think we have reached a place of relative peace and harmony, and I have a few helpful pointers to share. Please feel free to add more in the comments- remember when you comment, other people in your situation can see them too, and we can all learn a bit more (and feel less alone)
1. DO be sure he's (or she) is the one. DO NOT enter into this if your not sure/have any nagging doubts. Wait until you are sure. Time if your friend here.
2. DO have realistic expectations. You might get on like a house on fire when you first meet but at some point conflict will occur. It might be because the novelty of you wears off, or because you say 'No' for the first time. DO NOT expect everything to be rosie all the time. Remember 'normal' families have big rows too.
3. DO NOT beat yourself up. About anything. If you shout, if you cook the wrong food, if you try hard and then wonder why you bothered- just don't do it. Lesson learned. You have a lot more to learn. Every day can feel like a lesson at first and some days are a write off. DO know your not alone. We have all been there (big hugs)
4. DO get to know your step children and learn a bit about them before you meet them. It will make starting conversation a bit easier (although if they are teenagers just accept a grunt is probably all you will get). It will probably also make you other half a bit more relaxed about introducing you to his kids as he will feel your interested. DO NOT impose too many changes too quickly. Trust me, I made this mistake and it's not a brilliant idea. Even if you very strongly disagree with the way something is done, discuss it when the children are gone and take changes on slowly. They are more effective that way.
'Don't come into the stepfamily with your list of ways to "fix" things. "If you do, the kids might see you as trying to erase all evidence of their life before you entered it," says Jenna Korf'Quote taken from article 'How to discipline step children' on www.parents.com
5. DO remember children lash out at biological parents too. They are going to try it out on you as well. In the beginning they are trying to establish new boundaries with you in this new family unit and process their own feelings or hurt, sadness, anger, whatever else at the split/change in the original family unit. This might be added too if BM is fuelling the perception that you are responsible for that change. DO NOT fight that battle alone. Ensure you other half is going to sit down with the children and explain this isn't the case.
6. DO expect to get a sort-of-pass to the mummy club. After all, you now have a title with the word 'mummy' in it. Unfortunately its the least appealing title in the history of the world. DO NOT expect anyone to react positively. Sorry, that's the most disappointing thing in the world. I still introduce my SS as adopted (in my eyes, I've adopted him!) and then people are all 'Oh wow! How lovely!' I think to myself yes, isn't it? I've taken on a child I didn't give birth to, agreed to love them, care for them, educate, discipline, cloth and feed them. I find most mums see me as a bit of an impostor or pretend mum if I tell them im a Step Mum!
7. DO keep talking. DO NOT list all the things your step kids do that annoy you. Prepare what you want to say before it comes out your mouth. Other wise it will feel like a very very personal attack.
8. DO get as much support as you can. Read my blog and get the books, join the groups. DO NOT feel alone.
9. DO allow yourself to love your step kids. It might happen over time, but when it does, just let it. Your not doing anything wrong. DO NOT let anyone feel like you are. Love is love, and all kids thrive on it.
10. DO remember you relationship is the foundation for all this. Keep working at it. Go out still. Make you time. Hire a babysitter if you need to. DO NOT neglect this. If the foundation crumbles, basically, your stuffed.
DO subscribe and follow me on facebook :)