Successful Step Parenting: Three Potential Pitfalls - No 2 Coping With Step Children
Only a day after doing the BBC Newcastle Breakfast Show, I had a phone call from BBC Birmingham, asking me to kick off the debate on Sunday morning 9.05 a.m. on – guess what – stepfamilies! What’s going on here?
In my blog of a couple of days ago, I identified the three potential pitfalls in a stepfamily as:
- Relationship between the couple
- Relationship between stepparent and stepchild
- Relationship between an absent parent and child
They all seem pretty obvious, don’t they? And without doubt, they overlap and interlink. Which is why I wrote only about financial matters in Part 1, The Relationship Between The Couple, because each of the next two parts will, inevitably, cover other aspects pertaining to couples.
2. RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN STEP PARENT AND STEP CHILD
I was very fortunate, when I married for the second time, because my husband, Will, had been a step child for many years. Consequently, he came into our marriage with insights that helped all of us: me, him, and my three girls.
His mother had died and his father had remarried. Nevertheless, it was easy to see the insecurity from which his stepmother suffered. Although she had no living biological mother with whom to compete, she still manifested the behaviour of someone who was never quite sure of her position.
BLENDED FAMILY CHALLENGES
She was demanding of Will’s dad’s attention. If not the centre of things, she would sulk. She displayed jealousy of any time he spent with Will. He rarely had occasion to be alone with his dad, and time spent with him in the company of his stepmum was unrewarding. She was petulant about any display of affection shown to Will by his dad, and openly demanded an embrace before it could be freely offered.
Will’s stepmother’s obsessive behaviour informed his conduct with his own step children. “I want you to know,” he told my girls and me, “that I will never come between you.”
DISCIPLINE & ACCESS TO BIOLOGICAL PARENT
True to his word, he never did. If the girls wanted access to me alone, he would make himself scarce. Of course, that meant that I had to decide where to draw the line. If the youngest objected to he and I having an embrace, rather than allow her to split us up, we grabbed hold of her and bullied her into being a part of it: a threesome hug.
If there were discipline issues, he and I discussed them between us. If necessary, we held a family forum. Whatever the outcome, we never openly allowed the girls to split us in our opinion of how a problem should be dealt with. If one or other of us felt threatened by the other’s stance, we would wind up the discussion and tell the girls we’d talk it over between us and come back to them.
It requires some self-discipline to achieve this and I can’t say, hand on heart, that we did so, unfailingly. But what I can say is, that in time, the girls came to respect Will to a greater extent than they did their biological father, whose own methods of discipline swung wildly between laissez-faire and a walloping.
WHO OWNS WHAT IN THE BLENDED FAMILY
There were two other major factors in cementing the relationship between Will and the girls. One, I have already touched on in my last post about finance: my daughters' tendency to feel, in the beginning, that their stepfather had no Rights over the things we had owned before my marriage to him.
This, as I said, was rapidly solved in that although the TV had been purchased by their biological father (and was part of the split between us) Will purchased the Licence that enabled us to watch it, legally. We had decided, before we married, that to combat this sort of thing we would not live in one another’s home, but had bought a house between us. Consequently, Will paid the mortgage for the home in which the TV was housed!
We didn’t rub it in. We didn’t need to. A couple of gentle remarks and one or two private discussions between daughters and me, and they readily accepted his Rights.
ACHIEVING A BLENDED FAMILY
The other factor cemented the growing bond between them. My youngest loved football. I did not! Will coached a junior football team, but more than that, watching his hometown team play was a passion. Setting up a situation whereby he took her to the game each week was a doddle. Suddenly, she and Will had an interest in common; an interest which excluded me! Naturally, I played my ignorance to the hilt, contriving a situation where the two of them would tease me, unmercifully. It worked. They’re now good friends.
But as we shall see in Part 3, The Relationship Between The Absent Parent And Child, it was not an overnight success.
Send this to anyone you know who’s in a stepfamily. And do leave a comment sharing your experience.
Click here to access Successful Stepparenting: Three Potential Pitfalls - No 1 Finance
Author of a number of books, one a No 4 Bestseller, Mel Menzies is also an experienced Speaker at live events, as well as on Radio and TV.
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