At 30 years old I began a new life as I blended my family of two boys with the family of a widower and his six children. All of the children were 12 down to 2 years old. My husband, Ron, and I were sure our life together would be a page right out of the Von Trapp Family book! Little did we know that there would be missing pieces like – none of us could carry a tune and I was not a “Maria”.
All too frequently I heard things like “You’re not my Mother?” or “My mom never yelled, you yell all the time though!” or my favorite, “If my mom is my ‘real’ mom, are you my fake mom?”
25 years later we have learned a lot about parenting do’s and don’ts. Here are some thoughts about Step-Parenting from Gary and Joy Lundberg on Step-Parenting that fit perfectly with our own beliefs on the subject…
Remember that you are the stepparent and cannot replace the biological parent. Help your stepchildren understand that you do not intend to replace their parent. They will respect and like you more for making that clear.
My husband’s first wife, Jeanie, died in a car accident. It seemed that every night I was holding one of the children as they cried for their mother. I made sure that Jeanie was remembered, that her name was spoken of frequently and that pictures of Jeanie proudly hung on our walls.
Let the biological parent be in charge of disciplining his or her children. This doesn’t mean the stepparent does not play an important role in the disciplinary process.
Ron and I backed each other up. We agreed on rules and methods of discipline and stood together. The kids felt safe in the boundaries we set and knew that we were united.
Don’t bash the biological parent. If you say negative things about your spouse’s ex, your stepchildren’s “real” father or mother, they will most likely hate you for it – even if it’s true.
My two son’s father is very much a part of their lives. I am proud to say the relationship that we have developed over time is one of respect and gratitude. Having a second family that loved them allowed my boys to enjoy a better life and more opportunities.
Have fun with the kids. Take the heaviness out of their lives and have some good times together. A teenage boy told us, “My step dad is way cool. He knows how to have fun with us.”
Our new son-in-law Levi has taken on an incredibly difficult situation after the death of my grandchildren’s father to suicide. Levi knows how to play with the kids, how not to take everything so seriously.
Lastly the Lundberg’s say something that I could not agree more with, “Pat yourself on the back! Sometimes Stepparents become so overwhelmed by what isn’t happening that they fail to recognize how well they-re actually doing. Besides being patient with your family, be patient with yourself.”
Years later I see the wisdom in doing exactly that. It is all worth the effort if we help develop a healthy happy relationship with each of our step-children. We never used the term, “step” children. They are all “our” children and we love them all!
Stepping Up to Step-Parenting
Melanie M. Stoker
2014 Utah Mother of the Year