Dos and Don'ts from One Who Knows
DO remember that your stepkids, challenging as they can seem at times, are only children, and the adjustment is twice as difficult for them as it is for you. These kids suddenly have a virtual stranger in their lives, telling them what to do and what not to do, and they see very little necessity for your presence. Stepchildren can be stubborn, disagreeable and downright vicious when they want to. When the going really gets tough, take a step back and imagine yourself in their place. Are you treating your step-children the way you’d want to be treated if you were in their position? Impossible as they sometimes can be, they’re just confused kids reacting to a difficult situation the only way they know how.
DO exude love, acceptance, approval, respect and enthusiasm as often as possible. It won’t always be easy, but the more positive your attitude is, the harder it will be for your stepchildren to be negative. Also, give them praise when they deserve it. Don’t assume they know that you love them or are proud of them- tell them as often as is appropriate. They’ll appreciate it, even if they blow you off.
DO set limits and stick to them! Everyone has things that are not OK. You have the right to voice the things that you won’t tolerate, whether it’s name-calling, slamming doors, borrowing things without asking, or whatever pushes your buttons. Be consistent in scolding or punishing for the unacceptable behaviors every time they occur.
DO make time for yourself. You have every right to quiet time alone or to indulge in your favorite hobbies or relaxation activities. Although sticking to a routine is difficult, it’s easier for everyone in the family if you have a regular schedule for your “me” time. The kids will know that you do yoga every day at six or leave for the library every Monday at three, and they’ll learn to work around that part of your routine.
DO maintain honest communication with your husband. You can’t expect him to be a supportive partner if you don’t tell him how you feel. He needs to know what’s working and what you’re having a hard time with. It’s essential that you maintain a unified front as parents, and open communication is the key to accomplishing that.
DO make every effort to get along with Mom. If your stepchildren’s mom is in the picture, you MUST get along with her. It won’t be easy, and you don’t have to like her. Chances are she’ll resent you, and you may feel uncomfortable about her history with your husband. Get over it. You and she have something very important in common- you love the same kids. The better your relationship with their mom, the easier time your stepkids will have adjusting.
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