Today’s blog post is by Don Purdum
Are you married to someone who has a child from a previous marriage? I’m not, but from 12-17 years old I lived with a stepmom, and it was one of the hardest times of my life!
I’m sure many times my stepmother wondered what she had gotten herself into? My father was no rose, so I’m sure I wasn’t much of a help either.
Today, I am a father with two kids, one is seventeen and the other is eleven. It can be hard enough to raise children even when you’ve been married to their wonderful Mom for 20 years. But to have to do it with an “ex” in the picture, her parents, and other extended family who don’t know you, and probably don’t like you, has to be one of the hardest things in the world to do?
If you are a Stepmom trying to navigate the waters of a merged family, here are 5 suggestions from a former kids point of view.
- Slow down – Too many merged families move to fast to integrate the new family unit. Remember, the kids didn’t ask for this, and they may not be supportive right now. Give them a chance to take it all in, and try to include them as much as possible in the process.
- Have realistic expectations – No matter how long their parents have been divorced, they still have attachments to both. Don’t have the expectation that you are going to become an instant Mom to your fiancé or husband’s kids. It may not happen. Instead, find ways to serve them, love them, and just appreciate who they are.
- Plan well – Plan with your husband how you will be involved in their lives. I know they are not your kids, but they still need boundaries. You will have to find a way to earn their respect. That may be a challenge? Discuss how you will handle discipline issues. Yes, you will have to discipline them in order to achieve a higher level of respect. But there will have to boundaries.
- Ensure there are house rules – just because you are not their biological mother does not mean they don’t have to follow the rules you and your husband setup. They must adhere to your rules and standards of behavior in your home. Again, work with your husband to create the boundaries and household rules.
- Never negatively about the Ex – EVER! That is still their mother. No matter how hard or how deserving it may be. Avoid the temptation, you cannot win. Even when you are right, even when it seems the kids agree. It will sow seeds in their minds that you are willing to hurt their mother. If you will do that, what will you do to them? It is a deal breaker for a kid!
In my personal experience, I did not have this process to go through. It was fast, hard, and complex. There was a lot of anger and animosity. The family merger didn’t just include me, but also a brother and two step-brothers. Needless to say, it never went well. There was always chaos.
I will share that it is extremely important that you work closely with your husband to create a caring, vibrant, and loving home. Make it a safe place. Make it an environment that everyone wants to be in, and is free to share their happy moments and sad times. It will be hard, but given time you can do it.
Make the time you have with the kids special. It’s been as hard on them as it is you, and it does not need to be any harder.
Remember, you are the adult. Don’t expect them to act like adults. Be thoughtful, and consider their needs above your own. And when things seem personal, it is personal. No sense sugar coating it. But, set your feelings aside and put yourself in their shoes when this happens. The respect and space you give them will allow them go grow fonder of you and closer to you as time goes by.
I hope this helps and is an encouragement to you? If things are hard right now, just stay with it and remain positive. It will pass.
One day, you will have a great impact your step kids and they will seek you out. Just give them their space in the beginning and don’t rush it. It will be worth the wait!!!
If you have any questions, please leave us a comment! We would love to hear your views and opinions.
Don works with business owners, entrepreneurs, executives, high achieving professionals and their spouses to bring alignment between their work and families. You can learn more about him at www.donpurdum.com. You can also connect with him at www.facebook.com/donpurdum