3 Tips for the New Stepmom
- Pam Kanaly Co-founder, Arise Ministries
- 2018 9 May
If you’re like many single moms, you hope to marry one day. And if you choose a husband with young children like I did, your mom status changes instantly by saying two itty-bitty words: I do. Then bam! One minute you’re a single mom, and the next minute you’re a stepmom. And you wonder, What in the world does that look like? Friend, there are as many variations of stepfamily dynamics as there are hues of red. But some things remain the same in almost every stepfamily.
I’ve been a stepmom for over 25 years, so I’ve walked the road. I raised one stepdaughter (Amber) in the home and watched her get married. Now I’m witnessing her raising her own two children. I’m blessed by the adult relationship I share with her and feel amazingly honored when she calls me for advice. WOW! What a blessing! And though I didn’t do everything right, apparently I did a few things okay.
So let me share three suggestions before you remarry and take on the new title of stepmom.
1. Gain a proper perspective of your position.
Stepmoms are not “the mother.” NO ONE will ever take that position. It does much harm when stepmoms expect to have equal status as the biological mother. Stepmoms make a mistake when they ask stepchildren to call her “Mom,” and it’s likely the children don’t want to call her that. If they do, that’s great, but let it be their idea. Don’t put the children in an emotional tug-of-war.
My posture with my stepdaughter in the home was not a “motherly” position, but a “model” position—someone whose responsibility was to come alongside and be an advantage, not a disadvantage, in her life.
Be honest and compassionate in your role. Tell stepchildren it’s okay to be confused about the new people in their life. Assure them it’s normal to be sad about the divorce or parent’s death. Support them emotionally by creating a safe place for them to eventually invite you into their world.
2. Keep your stepchildren’s best interest at heart.
What is it that stepmoms want most for their stepchildren? Hopefully, it’s that the children land on both feet as healthy adults without too much baggage following them down the aisle on their wedding day.
Kids have enough to deal with when entering a blended family. So consider their losses by making it a goal to cause as little drama as possible. Of course, at times you’ll want to scream, “I can’t take this anymore!”
I recall almost losing it around the holidays when family issues surfaced. Okay, Pam, I’d say. Think. What’s best in the long run for the children who have to travel back and forth to the other parent? Friends, never will we go wrong when we give our stepchildren and children what they most desire: respect, patience, and unselfish love.
3. Live in the reality of what’s real.
Don’t live in Cinderella-land. Second marriages are difficult—especially at first! Unmet expectations abound and soon stepparents discover that blood is thicker than water. Therefore, don’t expect your new spouse to feel the same way about your children as you do and vice versa. Be realistic.
The term “blended” family is a misnomer. It’s more like a pressure cooker with two families living under the same roof.
Dr. Ron Deal, author of The Smart Stepfamily commented, “The way to cook a stepfamily is with a crock-pot. Once thrown into the pot, it will take time and low-heat to bring ingredients together, requiring that adults step into a new marriage with determination and patience. The average stepfamily takes 5-7 years to combine; some take longer. There are no quick recipes, only dedicated journeymen.” I wish I would have known that years ago. I would have relaxed, knowing that my family dynamics were normal. And the word “normal” always give us hope. Amen?
Although this article may make you feel discouraged, don’t let it. Just be wise in what to expect when you’re moving toward remarriage with children involved. The market is filled with material about making a blended family work. Do your research. Read voraciously about the subject. Get pre-marital counseling. And most of all, bring God into the equation.
You can be a dynamic stepmother—molding a life for all eternity!
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