Stepparents drag their biological children to a new family expecting them to adjust in time accordingly. Second and third marriages fail due to the inability of the stepchildren to adjust to their new family situation. Each member of the new stepfamily feels vulnerable to each other. The stepchildren gained not only a new parent but inherited a new additional sibling. The quick turnaround of events are very overwhelming for any child. The inability of stepchildren to cope with the new family dynamic adds stress to the stepparents. The couple who is “head over heels” with each other now realizes that their biological children are not at all crazy about their stepsiblings. The reality sets in. Though many stepfamilies fail and eventually dissolves, there are 10 things that stepmother and stepfathers can do to create a home instead of a war zone.
1. Realize that each member of the new stepfamily household needs healing.
2. Know your own stress triggers. Know the stress responses of your stepchild.
3. Understand your responsibility to your children lasts 24/7.
4. Create new family traditions, rituals and memory books.
5. Let your stepchildren know they are precious to you by consistent praises and adoration every night.
6. Use discipline methods that work for healing. Bad behaviors of stepchildren cannot be stopped by lecture, sermons, yelling, and fussing. Stepparents must interrupt the child to do a motor memory of the distinct task you want him to learn.
7. Create an environment that is filled with sensory and attachment or bonding activities.
8. Let your stepchildren feel that their opinions are valued if delivered in a respectful manner.
9. Engage your stepchildren in a playful manner so you can capture their hearts.
10. Teach them to relax. Provide a secure base for your stepchild.
Every member of the stepfamily wants their relationships with each other to work. However, the approach used for biological children does not always work with stepchildren. Stepchildren come from dysfunctional families. Thus, each stepchild needs healing. Stepparents cannot take their stepchildren to a calm state unless they know how to get there themselves. Let your stepchildren re-connect with you each time they make mistakes instead of grounding them to time outs or away from you. In learning natural and logical consequences, they understand how the world works. In putting the task you want them to learn in concrete steps, you model a sense of safety in their world. Establish respect by teaching them what respect looks and feels like. Learn to value the lessons each stepchild brings to your life.
Dr. Katryn Purvis, in his training DVD entitled “The Healing Research” summarizes the secret of balancing your relationship with your stepchildren. Dr. Katryn says “nurturing a child when it needs structure: you limit their growth; providing structure when the child needs nurturing: you limit their trust.”
“Healing Research Seminar”, Dr. Katryn Purvis, Institute of Child Development