Step parenting will challenge you. It has challenged me on all levels. The complexities are very real, constant, occur inside the house and can come at you from externally. So how do you get through and make sure your relationship and new family survive?
Firstly you need to understand where your step children are coming from. What have they been through and what support do they need. This all takes time and building a relationship with them can take years, especially when they are living in different houses on a rotation. They may need emotional support to overcome negative emotions that they are stuck in. Children can adapt to different living situations but may need a settling in time each time they return home. Let go expectations and be guided by their behaviour. If they are struggling their behaviour will tell you.
One of the biggest issues inside my house many years ago was with my son and my now husband but a new partner at the time didn’t get along. My son was used to having me on his own; it had been just the two of us for five years. Then arrived the intruder (another man in my life). They came from different backgrounds, my husband parented differently to how I had parented my son and they clashed. This put me in a very difficult and heart breaking position. The meat in the sandwich. My son needed to know that I supported him; I was the only one he had in the house. But this took its toll on building a new relationship. I constantly had a feeling of anxiety when the two of them were in the same room together. Both their behaviour to each other was unacceptable. I knew if the problem was not addressed it would escalate and I was desperate for an answer. I wanted my relationship to work but not at the cost of my son’s emotional wellbeing.
So I had a very direct, honest and open conversation with my husband that there needed to be a change. To my husband’s credit, he changed instantly. He showed more tolerance, more acceptance and stopped trying to control my son. The tension in the house eased and my son responded immediately. Respect for each other started to grow and my son’s behaviour improved in the reflection of my husband’s changes. My husband continued to change his parenting approach and all the children in the house benefited. My son relaxed and his negative behaviour disappeared. Their relationship has grown and he now says he has "the best step dad".
Not all issues are easily fixed. But if not addressed can cause permanent damage to your relationship and family life and to the children. Biological children need to know that their parent will support them. Of course, if their behaviour is unacceptable they need direction but as adults, we need to make the changes necessary if we want the relationship to work. Usually, if we make changes children will follow.
If your biological or step children are learning negative behaviour in their other house provide an alternative for them. Be the good example for them to follow. Be sure they are aware of what behaviour is not acceptable in your house then be the leader by giving them an alternative way to behave.
It’s not an easy situation but if you maintain your integrity, treat all in the house with equality and accept accountability for your actions blended families can work. I am six years down the track now, although life is more stable and fulfilling there is always an opportunity to grow, learn and expand my heart. I accepted the challenge of step parenting with an open heart and am a better person because of it.
If you need guidance or someone to talk to who understands, who has lived it and who has some tools to help you navigate through, connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or
0413 316 079 Skype or face to face available.