The challenges of being a Step-Parent

When I was younger and thinking about marriage, I never really put thought into step-parenting. It never crossed my mind that I could possibly be one, one day. Now here I am….constantly trying to find my footing in all of this.

My husband and I both had a child from a previous relationship and they both happen to be 9 year old girls now. Crazy, right? When I first met him I thought he was just making up things to have in common with me. But this one was real. Ignorant, naive, me, thinking it was going to be as easy as pie…

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There are ROADBLOCKS in Step-Parenting. Being a step-parent is difficult to say the least. You have two entirely different children who have four parents (total) in their lives; the other parent has a partner as well. We are all, basically, trying at once to tell our girls how to be because we each have our own version of what raising a child entails. And surely not everyone is on the same page when it comes to that. I mean, yes, there are agreements on the basic things but what happens under the individual roofs is going to be the final call, whether it’s something the other parents would allow or not. It’s a silent battle to parent both of the girls our way and still respect the other parents parenting choices.

Children are the Great Manipulators of our time. Especially, if you have ones who go in between homes on a consistent or seasonal basis. They figure out and use the things they know will make you feel guilty to get around the obnoxious behavior they display or want to display. If you haven’t figured it out yet, kids are a A LOT  smarter than you think. They analyze, take in, process, and choose what weapons to use against you when you aren’t making them happy.

How do you differentiate the moments when you are truly being hurtful or if you’re just getting in the way of pubescent, spoiled, children?

My advice is just to pay close attention and continue to take mental notes. Keep track of repetitive “word weapons”.

Disciplining is like running into a brick wall.

It’s been a challenge to figure out where the boundary is to disciplining a child who is not, technically, mine. There have been times where I’ve been told I am being too “mean” or my tone is “rude”. I’ve been told I need to be “nicer” when I say things. I have even been ignored. Go figure, right? So my constant questions are-“Do I even try to discipline or sit back and be quiet”?  I’ve read plenty of articles and they all state to let the biological parent do the discipling. So I am basically chopped liver is what I gathered. I know my husband has difficulty in this area as well.

Children take everything personal when it comes to some stranger entering their lives and trying to raise them because it always comes back to-

“well my real mom or dad doesn’t make me do this or doesn’t talk to me like that so why do I need to listen to you anyways”?

No matter how annoying or aggravating it is to hear that, never let them take the upper hand and don’t ever let them see it upsets you or they will always be in control of the relationship.

My husband and I are not the “Friend” parents. You know those types. They are the ones who would rather cave and give into what the child is crying for than put their foot down and keep it there because the sight and thought of their child unhappy is just unbearable and they don’t ever want to be seen as the mean parent. They want to be the FAVORITE parent. I know it hurts to see our children sad or in some sort of pain, but when seeing them happy becomes more important than raising them to be responsible, productive, emotionally stable, human beings then the issue isn’t with the child, it’s with the parent.

Bottom line with me is this: if a child is doing something they are not supposed to be doing and they know it, or are behaving in a way that is inappropriate, then I will in no way be “nice” about it. How will they take me seriously if I have the voice of Mary Poppins? I’m not going to be a monster either, but making sure I am firm in my decision is important. It goes this way whether you are my blood, step or adopted child.

Realizing relating and forming a bond is no easy feat.

I sit and often wonder how I can relate to both of the girls and understand their individual self so that I can tailor our interactions seamlessly. I get they don’t know who they truly are, at 9 years old, but I am pretty sure they have a good idea, at this point, of what things they enjoy doing. One child likes to be on her own, 95% of the time (well only if she’s not in trouble) but majority of the time, she enjoys doing everything by herself and wants everything to herself. Then there is the other child who despises the thought of being alone and in turn needs to be with someone or everyone at all times, doing something. She likes to use the “spending family time” card a lot because she knows how important it is in our house to have family time.  They are both complete polar opposites. I like to think these are the effects of being the only child for the first 6 1/2 years.  [They both have a little brother with the other parents]

SO-How do you ask a child to stop spending so much time by themselves or how do you tell a child that it’s ok to be by themself?

There are no easy answers to those. As I discovered. It’s a matter of always explaining your reasons behind your decisions and sticking to them.

Great Parenting is to always evolve into something better.

Parenting alongside my husband- we have our many, many differences in how things should be done. At the same token we agree on many, many things as well which is what really connected us in the beginning of our relationship. He has a more gentle approach to things, where as I am more abrasive. My daughter is accustomed to the way I parent. And my step-daughter is accustomed to her dads ways. I never liked the “soft voice” technique, but it’s something I am learning to incorporate in my parenting style because it’s not just me and my daughter anymore. There has to be a middle ground with both parents and they need to be on each others side when it comes to disciplining. Because if there is no support on either end. It’s a battle that will never be won.

I know these things take time. Especially with a blended family like mine but like everything else I am learning, this will go inside my mental “Guide to parenting” handbook.


 

I have contemplated on writing about this particular subject for quite some time now. More so because it’s very personal and I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings in the process. Particularly people in my family. But my husband brought it up the other day and it prompted me to just write.

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