Working Through your Problems with your Step Children
All families have problems at times, but those who make the effort to work out their differences stand a much better chance of finding happiness than those who choose to ignore awkward situations in hope that things will improve on their own. Children can be difficult to deal with at times and may go out of their way to make trouble for their stepparents, but with the help and support of their spouse, most stepparents find that they can develop close and loving relationships with the very children who at first, may feel like unwelcoming strangers.
Getting to Know your StepchildrenChildren are not likely to open up to someone simply because that person is married to one of their parents. Relationships take time to develop and once the children understand that their stepparent wishes only to befriend them, they are likely to loosen up and be cooperative to the idea of acceptance.
Stepparents can improve their relationships with their stepchildren by initiating conversations that are non-confrontational and offer little reason for disagreement. Talk about the kids’ interests, such as sports, music, and pop culture is unlikely to cause upset and can provide an inroad to deeper conversations once a relationship has been established.
Seeking the Support of your SpouseTypically, children will behave in the manner that they know is expected of them, so when children’s natural parent and stepparent present the kids with a set of rules by which they are expected to behave, they most likely will. It is important that the kids understand that both of the adults in the household are in agreement about the rules and the consequences that will come if the rules are disregarded, so that the family can avoid a situation where the children play one parent against the other.
Ideally, the children’s non-residential parent is supportive of their ex’s new partner, too, providing the children with a consistent set of guidelines that they are to follow, no matter which household they are at. This level of family cooperation isn’t always possible, however, but it can make life easier for all of the parents and in the end, for the children, as well.
Handling Disrespect and Refusal to Acknowledge AuthoritySome children, especially older kids and teens, may be prone to letting their mouths get them into trouble, but there is no reason for stepparents to accept rude or disrespectful behaviour as the norm. Kids should be allowed and encouraged to be open about their feelings and to express their discontent, but they should not be allowed to do so in a manner that is hurtful to others.
Stepparents, especially those that reside in the home where the children spend the majority of their time, need to be recognised as authority figures and as such, must be afforded the ability to discipline unruly children. In life, actions have consequences and children need to learn young to associate their behaviours with the results that they get. Most kids learn pretty quickly to behave in ways that elicit positive reactions from those around them, so if parents and stepparents are consistent in their expectations, the kids will probably adjust as necessary.
Choosing your BattlesParents often worry excessively about their kids, causing problems between them and their children that are barely worthy of attention. Smart parents and stepparents learn to choose their battles wisely, focusing their attention on important issues while allowing the kids a little leeway on less urgent matters.
Behaviour, academic responsibility, and safety issues are all worth fighting over if need be, but issues about the kids’ sense of style or taste in music are usually not battle-worthy. Every generation seems to look at their children and wonder what they are thinking when they choose clothes, hairstyles, and music, so parents and stepparents can take some comfort from knowing that in a few decades, their children will be grown, looking at their own kids, and shaking their heads in disbelief.
Talking about Family ProblemsSometimes, one family member may be feeling hurt or angry, but the others are unaware of their unhappiness. Some family problems remain unsettled for years because no one speaks up, but by doing this, family members deny themselves the chance to develop and maintain close, loving bonds with those nearest to them.
Encouraging kids to be open about their feelings is a good idea, and parents should set the example by offering their children and stepchildren an honest look at them and their needs. When kids see their parents and stepparents directly addressing problems and looking for solutions that benefit the family as a whole, they not only gain respect for their parents, but also valuable insight about the importance of dealing with problems as they crop up rather than letting them fester and cause additional discord.