Step parenting: Two heads are better than one.
Entering an established relationship is not always easy, Russell took his time to get to know my children. He is a great role model and someone who is kind and considerate. He has a wonderful set of morals and values and I couldn’t have asked for a kinder gentler man in come into our lives.
Following on from last weeks blog post, we set clear boundaries early in our relationship. I would continue to enforce discipline and parent my children, he would be there to support me. When you are both working in unison, the children have no way of breaking you down. Change didn’t come easy for us all. When you have a routine and suddenly your children do not have a monopoly on your time you need to make time for everyone including yourself.
My eldest struggled with the change and developed a sense of resentment towards Russell. She would often challenge his decisions and instructions and rebel against them. I would always check in with her regularly, one on one, to see what was happening in her world and how she was feeling.
It was important for building a relationship with my children that Russell showed an active interest in their daily lies. He would always ask them at the dinner table how their day went and I would follow on from this by asking a specific leading question to learn more about their day. If you only ask, “How was your day?”, you may only receive an answer such as “Fine” or “Ok”.
Whereas if you ask a question like, “What was one thing that you learnt today?” or “What was one thing that made you smile/sad/happy today?“, you have a greater chance of learning about how they are feeling internally or what they are thinking.
Apart from the times when my eldest challenged us, there were plenty of memorable moments where we were one happy family. Those are the times that we draw on now to remind ourselves that she is still very much a part of our family even though she is gone.
Whenever conflicts arise, sit down and discuss the situation calmly and set clear boundaries. Make sure you both agree to the expectations and back each other up. Russell would often say, “Your mother and I”, in order to let the children know that we were together on this. Never ever show your children you hold a difference of opinion as they will use this against you both.
This division can lead to resentment and can cause a rift between the two of you. You must stand together, as one. If you can, avoid saying, “What did your mother/father say?”. Talk to each other first or if you are blindsided then simply say, “I will discuss this with your mother/father and give you an answer by 4pm”, or something to that effect.
We have created many behaviour reward charts, pocket money systems and chore charts over the years and each time we modified each one to suit our family. We wanted the children to know they were valued and appreciated and gave them chances to earn their own money which gave them a sense of ownership and independence.
Whenever the opportunity arose we attending parenting seminars and read parenting books to help us navigate the years of adolescents. We highly recommend reading the books written by Nigel Latta, Ian Grant, Steve Biddulph and Diane Levy. Nigel Lattas book “Politically Incorrect Guide to Teenagers” became my go to book. He knows his stuff and tells it like it is.
My children hated me saying, “Nigel Latta said this or Nigel Latta said that”. I knew that if Nigel Latta had been through it then I wasn’t alone in the sheer desperation I felt trying to get through each day.
Make sure you give yourself time each day to talk to one another without any interruptions from the children. If they have something to say they can wait until you have finished talking. We now have a daily debrief where for 10 minutes each evening we share our day with each other. During this time there are no interruptions unless someone is dying or the house is burning down.
There were times when I would encourage Russell to spend one on one time with each child doing something that they would enjoy. As they were pre-teens, getting them to do anything became increasingly difficult. We made sure there were opportunities to go on holiday together as a family each year and there were often regular outings with them both.
Be mindful of how you speak about your partners children to your partner as they will take the comments as criticism of their parenting. They are doing the best they can with what they have and there may be contributing stress factors within the dynamics of the family unit. Perhaps they are dealing with access and custody issues through the family court, perhaps they have abuse issues to resolve with their ex-partner?
There can be any number of issues they are dealing with and what they need from you is support. We have all made mistakes when it comes to parenting. We usually parent our children based on how we ourselves were parented along with our own blend of ideas and solutions.
Make sure you take time out from your children and allow the step parent to take the reins. Whether it is for a few hours or overnight, make sure you mitigate any misbehavior by staying aware of what the rules are so that the biological parent can relax without having to answer the phone every 5 minutes to diffuse heated situations.
We would love to hear your tips and suggestions for how you remain close while navigating a step parent family by leaving a comment below. We are more than happy to advise and assist where necessary and welcome any questions and suggestions from you. Feel free to email us anytime. Have a great week.