Navigate the Challenges of Step-Parenthood
- Wednesday, September 07, 2005
There will be situations when you should voice your opinion, but do so behind closed doors. To influence the outcome, air your side in private before a decision has been made. Thwarting a decision he has already made known to his kids and ex will cause them to disrespect him. You will be undermining your own relationship with them as well. So, instead of contributing to the pressure during conflict, be a buttress — be your husband’s strongest supporter.
C: Be a Champion of Quality Relationships
What do champions do? In the sense of a cause they work to meet the needs of a weaker group. Your stepkids — victims of a broken home — need a strong, healthy relationship with their father. Weak relationships in even one area can sabotage the whole family. The tensions of stepfamily life present a plethora of opportunities to weaken parent/child relationships. Three such opportunities are:
1. Men by nature are typically less relational than women. They may not recognize the need to really work on their relationships with their children. To be a champion for your stepchildren, encourage your husband to engage his kids in one-on-one activities that are not merely fun, but promote talks. Encourage him to seek to understand how his children think, and what his children feel.
2. As the stepmother, you may sense your stepchildren interfering with your marriage relationship — a normal, but destructive situation if you allow it to persist. If indeed stepchildren are driving a wedge into your marital relationship, stay calm! If your husband recognizes the destructive behavior of his kids, address the issue as a team. Let your children know you are committed to each other, and to them and their best interests.
If, however, your husband does not see the problem, stay calm! Keep encouraging your husband to strengthen his relationship with his children. Your support will prevent him from feeling torn between you and them — which is exactly what your stepchildren hope to do. They perceive that in a contest, they have the advantage over you. Be a champion of quality relationships by self-assuredly refusing to enter their perceived contest.
Perhaps your stepchildren pose no real threat; they enjoy being with you, but you still have a twinge of jealousy. Be a champion by fighting those irrational feelings and continuing to support your husband’s relationship efforts with his children. The more you fight the feelings, the stronger you will grow, and the stronger your relationships with both your husband and his kids will be.
3. An uncooperative ex-wife may pose a threat to your husband’s relationships with his kids. To champion quality relationships in this very difficult circumstance, encourage your husband to be the adult, to take responsible actions toward quality time with his children, and to resist becoming spiteful in his dealings with his ex.
It is easiest to react naturally in the moment, but what comes out naturally usually tears families down rather than building them up. Build up your husband in his children’s eyes. Be an anchor during visitations, be a buttress during conflict, and be a champion for quality relationships.
Kay Adkins is the author of I'm Not Your Kid: A Christian Guide for a Healthy Stepfamily (Baker Books). Visit her on the web at www.faithfulsteps.com.
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