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10 Parenting Tips Every Stepmom Must Know

Posted by on May. 31, 2013 at 9:45 AM
  • 26 Replies

10 Parenting Tips Every Stepmom Must Know

by Sheri Reed

happy cookies smiley face
Flickr photo by midiman

Being a stepmom and finding your role in your stepchild's life can be tough.

To make it a smidge easier, Rachelle Katz, EdD, LMFT, author of the book The Happy Stepmother: Stay Sane, Empower Yourself, and Thrive in Your New Family, is here with us today to share 10 Parenting Tips Every Stepmom Must Know.

10 Parenting Tips Every Stepmom Must Know

Being a stepmother can be one of the most challenging roles in society, and one that often receives little support, understanding, and appreciation from others. In my book, The Happy Stepmother, I share 10 steps to thrive despite the frustrations that come with stepmotherhood, but here are 10 tips you can try right now to become a happier stepmother today:   

  1. Enjoy time with your stepchildren: Stepchildren should be assets, rather than liabilities, in your life. To have good relationships with them, you need to spend quality time with them and interact in meaningful, pleasurable ways. Since quality relationships are built from one-on-one interactions, spend private time with each of your stepchildren. Find common interests and activities, such as a hobby or a sport, to do with them. It's easier to develop a caring, loving, and friendly relationship with your stepchildren when you don’t have the burden of parental responsibilities and can simply enjoy your time together instead.  
  2. Allow your partner to actively take care of his children: If you want to have a good relationship with your stepchildren and your partner, don’t automatically become the primary housekeeper. Of course, you may do some tasks for your stepchildren, just as you would for other family members, but you'll become resentful if you feel you must fulfill all maternal duties for them -- especially if you don’t feel appreciated for what you do. You aren’t shirking stepmother duties if you don’t cook, clean, and do their laundry. Those are your partner’s jobs, even if you're staying home to care for your own biological children. In most cases, stepmothers should operate more as a babysitters or aunts than as parents. This will leave you more time for activities that provide you with the most meaning and pleasure.   
  3. Allow your partner to discipline his children: Remarried fathers need to step up to the plate when it comes to teaching their children appropriate behavior. Most mental health experts agree that it's your partner’s responsibility to discipline his children; if you discipline them, your stepchildren may resent you. Many stepmothers complain that their partners are too lax about providing structure and boundaries for their children after a divorce. When stepchildren misbehave, first focus your attention on your partner rather than the children. Let him know, gently and calmly, that you feel he needs to assert his authority in order to help his children grow and develop and feel secure and protected. If he isn’t capable of being a strong parent, then your life, his life, and your stepchildren’s lives will suffer.
  4. Establish house rules: In order to ensure mutual respect in the stepfamily, it's essential for you and your partner to develop a set of rules that everyone in the family must abide by. If your stepchildren are old enough, they can even participate in setting up these rules. Often, parents are amused to find that their children establish stricter punishments for breaking a rule than the adults would've done! When everyone in the family knows the house rules, you and your partner can back each other up when a transgression occurs. Working together as a team is important for you as a couple and teaches children that they can't “divide and conquer.”  
  5. Have a weekly date night with your husband: To be content as a stepmother and survive the stresses of stepfamily life, your relationship with your partner must be the most important priority in your life and his (right after your own well-being, which should always come first). Having fun together strengthens your relationship and makes it easier to get over the crises when they occur.  
  6. Accept that your feelings for your stepchildren and the feelings that your stepchildren have for you are “good enough”: Oftentimes, stepmothers feel pressured that they must love their stepchildren and expect their stepchildren to reciprocate that love in return. Love is an emotion that can’t be forced. If you love your stepchildren, that’s wonderful, but if you don’t, that’s also acceptable, as long as you provide kindness, compassion, and respect to them. No more and no less should be expected of you. When you remove expectations that you must love your stepchildren, it'll be easier just to be nice to them -- and in a genuine way. This can lead, eventually, to love.  
  7. Model good behavior: Our first challenge as stepmothers is to accept and welcome our stepchildren by being warm, kind, and respectful. The integration of a stepfamily begins with you and your partner. As mature, responsible adults, you have the job of laying the groundwork for the new family. You're the front-runner for modeling respect and compassion.  
  8. Don’t take it personally: Most of us as stepmothers try our hardest to be kind, considerate, and loving to our stepchildren. If our efforts are rebuffed, we naturally feel extremely hurt. Stepchildren may reject your attention and warmth for various reasons. Perhaps they feel that since they already have two parents, they don’t want a third one in their lives. They may be afraid their mothers will be hurt if they become close to you. They may not trust that your relationship with their father will last and don't want to experience loss again. Or they simply may not share your interests or temperament, and find it hard to relate to you. Any of these obstacles can take a long time to overcome, and the situation might not change at all despite your best efforts. Whatever the case, you need to accept things as they are for your own emotional welfare and not take stepchildren’s rejection of you as a personal attack.  
  9. Create your own holiday traditions: Holidays can be particularly painful for stepmothers who may be excluded from special occasions, such as weddings or Christmas, even after years of marriage to their partners. Other stepmothers can feel like outsiders at holiday gatherings. If you experience feelings of dread prior to certain family events, start your own traditions. Have an annual Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Easter gathering. You'll have more control when you host your own holiday celebrations.  
  10. Take charge of your own happiness: As a stepmother, it's of paramount importance for you to take care of your own emotional needs first, before everyone and everything else in your life. When you commit to making your emotional welfare the number one priority in your life, you'll be giving yourself the best shot at happiness. Attaining happiness requires hard work and a willingness to expend energy creating a meaningful life. We do this by focusing on what we want and then taking action to get it. Take charge! 


What other tips would you add?

by on May. 31, 2013 at 9:45 AM
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Replies (1-10):
Derdriu
by Gold Member on May. 31, 2013 at 9:59 AM
4 moms liked this


Quote:

Have a weekly date night with your husband: To be content as a stepmother and survive the stresses of stepfamily life, your relationship with your partner must be the most important priority in your life and his (right after your own well-being, which should always come first). Having fun together strengthens your relationship and makes it easier to get over the crises when they occur.  

This is misleading and potentially problematic.  The relationship does take work, but it takes work whether one is a SM or part of a nuclear family.  Many divorces occur because one or both partners feel neglected after kids come along.  But making time for each other sometimes means scheduling it after kids go to bed.  

There are clearly some SMs on this forum who feel they are entitled to DH time without kids, but if you go at from the standpoint of "I deserve to be first, I deserve a date night", he may feel that he's being forced to choose between his wife and his kids.  Who do you think will lose?  Most likely, the loser will be SM.  It's simply unrealistic to expect a parent to back burner their children.

Visitation schedules tend to provide date night time.  If the kids are gone for the weekend, take advantage of it.  If there is never any visitation, get a sitter maybe once per month or send the kids to their friends' houses for a sleepover to create an opportunity for adult-only evening.  Otherwise, schedule the time around the kids' schedules.  It may not be "romantic" to plan ahead, but doing so can save a marriage.  Above all, there shouldn't be competition between adult time and kid time.  Kids are needy.  It's a fact of life.  Work around it.

saywhat2102
by Gold Member on May. 31, 2013 at 10:04 AM
2 moms liked this

Weekly date night my ass LOL. 

momof2cuteboys
by Silver Member on May. 31, 2013 at 10:58 AM


Quoting Derdriu:


Quote:

Have a weekly date night with your husband: To be content as a stepmother and survive the stresses of stepfamily life, your relationship with your partner must be the most important priority in your life and his (right after your own well-being, which should always come first). Having fun together strengthens your relationship and makes it easier to get over the crises when they occur.  

This is misleading and potentially problematic.  The relationship does take work, but it takes work whether one is a SM or part of a nuclear family.  Many divorces occur because one or both partners feel neglected after kids come along.  But making time for each other sometimes means scheduling it after kids go to bed.  

There are clearly some SMs on this forum who feel they are entitled to DH time without kids, but if you go at from the standpoint of "I deserve to be first, I deserve a date night", he may feel that he's being forced to choose between his wife and his kids.  Who do you think will lose?  Most likely, the loser will be SM.  It's simply unrealistic to expect a parent to back burner their children.

Visitation schedules tend to provide date night time.  If the kids are gone for the weekend, take advantage of it.  If there is never any visitation, get a sitter maybe once per month or send the kids to their friends' houses for a sleepover to create an opportunity for adult-only evening.  Otherwise, schedule the time around the kids' schedules.  It may not be "romantic" to plan ahead, but doing so can save a marriage.  Above all, there shouldn't be competition between adult time and kid time.  Kids are needy.  It's a fact of life.  Work around it.

110% this ^^^^^^^^^^

kmur
by on May. 31, 2013 at 6:26 PM

BUMP!

Tigress22304
by Ruby Member on May. 31, 2013 at 6:43 PM


Quoting saywhat2102:

Weekly date night my ass LOL. 

Exactly-pooky and I have been together 7 yrs now....I can still count on BOTH HANDS how many "dates" we've had


Panda113
by Silver Member on May. 31, 2013 at 6:48 PM
Totally agree!


Quoting Derdriu:



Quote:


Have a weekly date night with your husband: To be content as a stepmother and survive the stresses of stepfamily life, your relationship with your partner must be the most important priority in your life and his (right after your own well-being, which should always come first). Having fun together strengthens your relationship and makes it easier to get over the crises when they occur.  


This is misleading and potentially problematic.  The relationship does take work, but it takes work whether one is a SM or part of a nuclear family.  Many divorces occur because one or both partners feel neglected after kids come along.  But making time for each other sometimes means scheduling it after kids go to bed.  


There are clearly some SMs on this forum who feel they are entitled to DH time without kids, but if you go at from the standpoint of "I deserve to be first, I deserve a date night", he may feel that he's being forced to choose between his wife and his kids.  Who do you think will lose?  Most likely, the loser will be SM.  It's simply unrealistic to expect a parent to back burner their children.


Visitation schedules tend to provide date night time.  If the kids are gone for the weekend, take advantage of it.  If there is never any visitation, get a sitter maybe once per month or send the kids to their friends' houses for a sleepover to create an opportunity for adult-only evening.  Otherwise, schedule the time around the kids' schedules.  It may not be "romantic" to plan ahead, but doing so can save a marriage.  Above all, there shouldn't be competition between adult time and kid time.  Kids are needy.  It's a fact of life.  Work around it.


saywhat2102
by Gold Member on May. 31, 2013 at 6:49 PM
1 mom liked this
We *might* get a Saturday every other month together. Then again we don't complain. Lol and we have an awesome marriage.

Kiddo has got to sleep at some point right?! *wink wink*


Quoting Tigress22304:


Quoting saywhat2102:

Weekly date night my ass LOL. 

Exactly-pooky and I have been together 7 yrs now....I can still count on BOTH HANDS how many "dates" we've had


Posted on CafeMom Mobile
Tigress22304
by Ruby Member on May. 31, 2013 at 6:52 PM
1 mom liked this


Quoting saywhat2102:

We *might* get a Saturday every other month together. Then again we don't complain. Lol and we have an awesome marriage.

Kiddo has got to sleep at some point right?! *wink wink*


Quoting Tigress22304:


Quoting saywhat2102:

Weekly date night my ass LOL. 

Exactly-pooky and I have been together 7 yrs now....I can still count on BOTH HANDS how many "dates" we've had


must be nice!!! 99% of the time SD11 is up with  us and I end up passing out before she does.

Otherwise DH's a lump in the bed on the laptop.


saywhat2102
by Gold Member on May. 31, 2013 at 6:55 PM
Please kick his ass for me! Tell him to light a damn candel or something!


Quoting Tigress22304:


Quoting saywhat2102:

We *might* get a Saturday every other month together. Then again we don't complain. Lol and we have an awesome marriage.



Kiddo has got to sleep at some point right?! *wink wink*





Quoting Tigress22304:


Quoting saywhat2102:

Weekly date night my ass LOL. 

Exactly-pooky and I have been together 7 yrs now....I can still count on BOTH HANDS how many "dates" we've had



must be nice!!! 99% of the time SD11 is up with  us and I end up passing out before she does.

Otherwise DH's a lump in the bed on the laptop.


Posted on CafeMom Mobile
Tigress22304
by Ruby Member on May. 31, 2013 at 6:58 PM


Quoting saywhat2102:

Please kick his ass for me! Tell him to light a damn candel or something!


Quoting Tigress22304:


Quoting saywhat2102:

We *might* get a Saturday every other month together. Then again we don't complain. Lol and we have an awesome marriage.



Kiddo has got to sleep at some point right?! *wink wink*





Quoting Tigress22304:


Quoting saywhat2102:

Weekly date night my ass LOL. 

Exactly-pooky and I have been together 7 yrs now....I can still count on BOTH HANDS how many "dates" we've had



must be nice!!! 99% of the time SD11 is up with  us and I end up passing out before she does.

Otherwise DH's a lump in the bed on the laptop.


Fuck that-Momma's getting her sleep on!! I am up early every day-I don't get to sleep in, esp when his kids are here!

I"ve given up trying to cut the kids off from our bedroom after a certain time. It pisses me off that once 4pm comes EVERY DAY THEY"RE HERE-if DH is home-they're in our room. Bouncing on the bed/fighting with each other messing shit up-he's too into the laptop.

I just let it go. Most of the time I snuggle with Princess :)

and if I fall asleep with my daughter, that's okay.


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