In my last blog post, I discussed the scenarios that might come into play when becoming a new stepparent. In this post, I share a few specific tips to keep in mind that can help you transition into your new role.
The following tips can help you transition into your new combined family:
- That head on the pillow next to you must be on your side – right or wrong. All adjustments to this rule number one must be made in private.
- Don’t react – be proactive at all times. This requires the parents to receive information impersonally, realizing that their children from their respective families are operating out of projected material, or it wouldn’t be so emotionally charged.
- Act in your adult. There are many trees in our forest – including the adult tree – find it!
- Stay conscious. No blocking here, and no wounded child behavior. This will only put you on par with your children in an adversarial position. Remember: the child tree in your forest doesn’t have the capacity to help you in times of stress, only your conscious adult tree does. This tree has choices.
- This tip is my personal favorite: listen to your children empathically. Follow my empathic process – I have found it is the best way to communicate. This means don’t ask your children how they feel, and then defend your position while emotionally beating them up for having told you their truth as they see it. Rather, value and respect what they are willing to share with you, without giving up your right to parent. This allows children to be clear in their communication without getting over invested in the outcome. This creates a safe and, more importantly, neutral space for all parties to return to, often with a softer and sometimes change of heart.
- Don’t assume anyone’s motives. Remember what the old adage said about assumptions. It is important to remember that, often in the case with children, they are unconscious of their motives. This can hold true for adults as well.
- Do your best and be kind to yourself. If you are authentic in your behavior and do your best, you are more likely to secure a positive outcome. Keep in mind that you are modeling behavior and children are taking their cues from their parents. Value yourself; establish boundaries and clear rules that are family creations. If children are involved in the making of family rules, they are invested, and therefore, more likely to follow them.
Since grief is the central player in divorce and in the new families created from divorce, it must be honored and given time to heal. A family that grieves can live again – not in the same way, but in a new way, and many times, more vitally. Don’t burden your children with your problems, but rather seek professional help and counseling if tensions run too high.
Finally, the unspoken rule is to never speak in a derogatory way about biological parents, for that will attack the very identity of the children who count their natural parents as half of who they are. Ultimately, you and your stepchildren are on a spiritual journey, which has the opportunity to open your hearts and quicken your soul.
Therefore, parents have an obligation to prepare the next generation for the future, including and most importantly, their future relationships. So model for your children what a good marriage is about. Stand together and make room for the kids.