Monday
Oct132014

Did You Know? 

Stepmoms (stepparents for that matter) miss many 'firsts,' but this does not diminish the legitimacy of the experiences they do share with their partners.    

Lisa Doodson, PhD, author of How to Be a Happy Stepmum, found that stepmoms experience greater anxiety and depression than biological moms do. A contributing factor to this may be that stepmoms miss out on many firsts with their partners (i.e. first marriage, first child, etc).

Having worked with hundreds of stepparents, and as a stepmom myself, I am all too familiar with having your partner's past an ever-present fixture in your life. Whether this exists in your stepchild's face or in the comments made by others, the fact that there was someone before you is one you cannot escape.

This does not, though, determine the history you are actively creating with them. It doesn’t diminish its value or deem it less important. The same can be said about your stepchildren. Although their world existed prior to you entering it, you are making a history with them. These experiences are legitimate and are what will define your stepfamily's culture.

The process comes more slowly in a stepfamily, but it still comes… day-by-day… interaction after interaction… memory upon memory. You'll soon have a history all your own that may even have more breadth than what came before. Cherish this and the journey along the way. 

Wednesday
Oct082014

Did You Know? 

Remember that no one has the right to judge you for the emotions you experience (and vice versa). Your feelings are your feelings, and you have a right to them. It's what you decide to do with them that's of most importance. Keep in mind that you can't take action in a "feelings" state. Follow these (3) steps to help to make the shift:

1. When feeling overwhelmed with emotion, lift your head and look up.

2. Visualize what you would like to see happen in the given situation. For instance, if a camera crew were present what action would be recorded?

3. Acknowledge feelings that do arise and honor them without stuffing or ignoring them. Continue, though, to build the image of what you want to see.

Following the above steps keeps you in an action-orientated state. And while you honor your emotions –which is very important—you don’t become paralyzed by them. Try this out and see what happens… you may be surprised by the result.      

Friday
Oct032014

Did You Know? 

Remember that a stepfamily is a compromise of expectations, not a lowering of them. The act of compromising gives voice to each stepfamily member and allows them a degree of influence. This is so important in laying groundwork for the new stepfamily structure that is strong enough to be built upon.

Think about when you've experienced change in your own life. If you were given a voice and felt heard your transition was most likely smoother than if it was communicated that you just had to "grin and bear it." No one likes to be treated in such a dismissive manner.

And while compromise does not mean everyone will get exactly what they want. It does mean that they'll get some of it-at least to a degree. Stepfamily life can be difficult for all those involved, but it doesn't have to be impossible. 

Are you brave enough to embrace that stepfamilies are, in fact, a compromise of expectations? Use these 6 steps as a guide to do just that:

(1) Honor each other's experiences

(2) Examine your expectations for stepfamily life and determine if they're realistic; if they're not ask yourself if it's the expectation or the timeline under which you want it fulfilled

(3) Understand that misunderstandings are often the result of a lack of information paired with poor communication skills

(4) Develop curiosity for other stepfamily members' perspectives

(5) Be a little more understanding

(6) Acknowledge that you, just like everyone else, makes mistakes-we're all human

So instead of lowering expectations, re-calibrate them with a compromising spirit that works to join stepfamily members together as opposed to tearing them apart.  

Friday
Aug082014

How Do You Define Family? 

It Can Make a Difference In How You Feel

Have you ever wondered how your definition of family may be impacting how you ‘feel’? If your first inclination is to define your family as yourself and your significant other without a thought for your stepchildren this may be perpetuating the outsider syndrome, especially if they are active participants in your life.

While you and your stepchild(ren) are biologically separate (having no shared lineage), Patricia Papernow suggests that stepparents – yes, this means you – are in a unique position to become an ‘intimate outsider’. What is this? It’s the ability to hold a place that the child’s biological parent cannot.  For instance, your stepchild may be more inclined to share certain things with you that they wouldn’t feel comfortable telling mom or dad.

This phenomenon places you in the position of being both an informed insider and a wise advisor. In the stepparent role you’re still seen as another adult but minus the biological parent hat, which can make you a safe place for your stepchild to ask questions and/or look for advice on topics they may be reluctant to disclose to their parents.  Hence, bestowing on you ‘intimate outsider’ status. And who’s better to offer your stepchild advice, you or one of their teenage friends? My vote is for you!

Now it is important to keep in mind while this is possible it is not a guarantee and if it does not transpire in your stepparent-stepchild relationship there is no blame to be placed. The ‘intimate outsider’ role is not a prerequisite for a healthy step relationship or stepfamily for that matter. It is merely a possibility and as such cannot be forced. If it does occur it will do so over time. Until then, celebrate the strengths already present.

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Christina Roach is President and Founder of Success for Steps®, as well as a stepmom. She is a certified Stepfamily Foundation Master Counselor and has received advanced clinical training from the National Stepfamily Resource Center. In addition she is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, a National Certified Counselor and a Distance Credentialed Counselor. Recognized as an expert on stepfamily dynamics, Ms. Roach has been featured in both local and national media, including NBC's Daytime and Ebony magazine, and is also a contributing writer for StepMom Magazine. For more information contact her directly at christina@successforsteps.com or 813-784-8952.

Monday
Jun232014

Stepmom Stories… a way to connect with your stepkid(s)

Submitted by a Reader

A couple of years ago, I was new at being a step mom of two boys.  Trying to find ways to bond with my new blended family, I came across one of our best family gifts at a thrift store one day.

It was fun looking little mailbox.  The box seems to have been a promotional gift from a fragrance line.  They painted it with bright red and blue paints, perfect for a boy's room.   It was about the size that an adult hand could fit...and lots of love.

Dad and I explained to the boys that when the post is up, then mail is in there.

For the past couple of years, they have found,

miss you notes,

small toys,

alerts for family hug moment,

tiny candies,

pictures from previous visits,

starter notes for Hot / Cold search game for larger gifts 

A quick game of hangman

family jokes like, ask Dad who wore his shirt inside out? ...of course, it was dad. :)

and much more.  

As you can imagine, anything that they have received in the past couple of years started at the mail box.

Even other children in the neighborhood know about the boy's mailbox and will stuff it with their own notes and drawings.

Needless to say, the first thing that the boys do when they come over is check to see if the mailman came while they were gone.

And of course, the grandparents put their own notes in it when they are here. 

I think it helped everyone in the house to blend a little better and faster since my handwriting was on most of the notes to let the kids know they were really wanted here with us.

- Tampa Stepmom

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