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The Joys and Struggles That Only Stepparents Would Understand

The Joys and Struggles That Only Stepparents Would Understand

For most kids, the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the word “stepparent” is Snow White’s or Cinderella’s evil stepmother. From their youngest age, children are only introduced to this kind of relationship, so it’s no wonder they very often refuse to even try to make it work. No one tells them that there are stepparents who don’t mind you being prettier, or those who won’t make you sleep on the floor next to the fireplace.

Parenting itself is challenging enough, but trying to take a place in already existing family is even harder. But, just like everything else in life, after defeating the obstacles, the rewards are amazing. If you decided to take this big step in your life and become a part of someone else’s, here is what you need to know.

So, let’s start with the struggles you’ll probably meet on this journey and some advice on how to cope with them.

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The Struggles

1. You will never be the “real” one.

You need to make peace with this fact. You can never (nor should you try to) replace the actual parent. It just won’t work. Even if the kids tell you that they think of you as mom, even if they call you “dad,” don’t make a mistake and think they will ever love you the way they love their parents—even if they are not around often, even if they aren’t really good parents.

Biology did its thing and the child will always feel connected to their parents. That may mean they will resent you at the beginning, or feel that their parents’ separation is your fault, but don’t blame them. Be consistent and try very hard and eventually you too will have a place in their heart.

2. You will have a hard time making the kids listen to you.

Even though you know that you deserve respect, you may find that your stepchildren don’t feel the same way. You are new to the family, and from their perspective, you don’t belong there. This may be the reason they deliberately ignore your requests, act in the most bratty way, or talk behind your back. Putting things in order will be hard, and you will need to be firm and fair to earn their respect.

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Try to make them listen, try showing them that you are there and don’t plan to leave, but also be careful not to overstep. Leave the punishments to your new spouse at least for the beginning and try different approaches, such as helping when they are in trouble, talking to them when they are upset etc.

3. You may have problems with the “ex.”

Whether he/she is there constantly or just occasionally, chances are they won’t like you, and they’ll like the fact you spend so much time with their kids even less. They may even try to turn them against you and there is very little you can do about it. All you can do is try to make the young ones like you for who you are by showing them that you have no intention replacing their parent, and that you just want to be their friend.

4. You may not love the children the way you think you should.

Since you are not biologically connected, you may at some point realize that you just find them awfully annoying (especially if they refuse to take you seriously). Keep in mind that you will never be more important to your loved one than their kids and also remember that they are your new family. You will be staying that way for quite some time, so you might as well invest in the relationship and try to see their good sides—just like what you expect them to do about you. How about taking them for a trip—just you and them—maybe go to the cinema or the local zoo and spend time alone, giving each other chance to grow positive feelings about each other.

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As hard as the downsides of step parenting may be, the rewards you get are sure to overcome them, and here is what you can expect once things are finally in order.

The Joys

5. You get all the joys of having children, even if they aren’t biologically yours.

If they are young, it’s stuff like reading them a good-night book, baking cookies together, getting them ready for school, teaching them the important stuff etc. If they are older, it’s seeing them off to prom, talking about boys (or girls), taking them shopping and so on. They will love you for it, and you will feel accomplished in a way only a parent can.

6. You will feel unimaginable happiness when they come to you for advice.

After the rough road, you finally managed to form some kind of a relationship with your stepchild—and now, they need your help. Whether it is a girl-to-girl talk about boys or just help with your stepsons homework, it feels amazing, as if you finally broke through the great wall of ignoring (and maybe a bit of resentment too) and got straight to heaven. Try to justify their trust and it will improve your relationship even more. Just be careful not to end up in between your spouse and the kids if they ask you to keep something a secret. Balance!

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7. You will want your kids and your step kids to get along.

Assuming you have your own kids, that is. And if they do get along, there is no better thing in the world. That means you are actually a family now. They may not consider each other siblings yet, but being friends is a great start. Now you can go to real family camping trips, or maybe all the children will go to the prom together. And that is when you will feel the most accomplished!

8. Your efforts WILL pay off.

It may be hard at the beginning (it probably will be) but then there will be a day your stepdaughter introduces you to her friends, or when your stepson invites you to see him play a football game. They will accept you for who you are and they will come to love you. All it takes is patience and courage, and the results will dazzle you!

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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