Being a stepmom is really hard. For all the moms out there with blended households, shared kiddos, and complex schedules, hats off to you! Having a few close friends who face stepmom challenges, I wanted to share some insights that we’ve learned together along the way.
Often in blended families, you’re all arriving on the scene with different backgrounds, varying house rules, and overall different family values. The first few years with new stepkids can be extremely challenging at any age. We’re a few years into our blended family and have celebrated some really beautiful times, terrific family vacations, and day-to-day success (mostly) of running our household, which includes a yours / mine / ours situation with the kids.
In the first few years as a stepmom, I often felt deep personal challenges with helping to raise another child whom I didn’t bring into the world. There are emotional attachment challenges and personality differences that come along when you meet a child later in their life. After seeking counsel, doing research, and talking it through with friends, I’ve come away with a few stepmom tips to help any new blended family in their journey to making it all work.
- Let time be the healer. Little ones (adults too) come with a lot of feelings. Sometimes anger, confusion, guilt, and sadness can be lurking in the background. These difficult feelings can often have nothing to do with you but inherently will get thrown your way at times. Stay patient, offer grace, and let time heal some of the wounds.
- Think first. Then react. (Or don’t react at all) Sometimes kids can be disrespectful and say hurtful things, break the rules, or act flippantly. This acting out can be a sign of frustration or trying to inflict their willpower as they fit into a new household environment. Even though it can be really difficult to hold your tongue, I have found it best to pause for a moment before you correct a stepchild or share comments back. While disciplining your own kids has enough challenges, handling a stepchild comes with an added layer of sensitivity.
- Closed Door Conversations. Sometimes conversations on deeper topics need to be held with your spouse/the bio parent. Topics can include behavior, school performance, challenges at home, etc. When something of a larger scale needs to be discussed, make sure to always approach your spouse in private and when it’s a good time to talk. Tensions can run higher when these talks occur in front of the kids or out in the open. You want to avoid sides being taken instead of aiming for solutions as a couple.
- Seek connection where connection can be found. What activities or crafts or tv shows does the child enjoy? Is there a special place he/she likes to visit or a favorite restaurant or dessert treat? Try to engage in small pockets of time where you can. Settling into a new family is a million tiny steps in the right direction
- The Other House. It’s not the same, and that’s ok. Often kids go back and forth to their “other house” when there is a shared custody situation. If the other parent(s) have similar rules, values, and expectations, the transition for the child is so much easier. However, sometimes there are obvious differences in what the child experiences in the other home and consensus cannot be met. In these situations, you and your spouse should have a team approach to setting expectations for rules, homework, and behavior. It’s ok to have a different set of expectations in your own home as long as there is a united front and lots of gentle reminders.
I hope these stepmom insights help! Stick with it and remember there is no guidebook to navigating step-parenthood and blended family life. Many blessings to your family as it grows and blossoms along the way.