3 "P's" for Parents
Entering into stepfamily life, bio-parents often have specific hopes, beliefs and expectations. Hopes around how their kids are going to respond to a new step-parent. Beliefs around the role their new partner will assume in the family and expectations around daily routines, house rules and the rhythm of family life.
"My new spouse is an amazing person - my kids are going to see that right away and accept him/her without any problem"
"It's going to be great to have someone to help out with my kids - I could really use a break and my new partner is good with parenting stuff"
"My kids and I are used to doing things a certain way. My new spouse will need to adapt to the way we do life and let me make the decisions"
As parents, we have a lot of insightful knowledge. We possess great understand of our children and we're really close and in tune with our new partner. It's so easy for us to envision how it's all going to play out once everyone is living under the same roof.
Going into marriage with Mike, I certainly held onto some idealistic hopes, beliefs and expectations - I really thought I had a good idea of how family life would unfold for us. But my 'vision' of our future together was very different from the reality we experienced. Often, this left me feeling frustrated and disappointed.
3 P's for Parents
In last week's post, Mike talked about 3 P's for Stepparents that challenge cultural lies and shed light on some practical realities. Here are the same 3 P's, but aimed at helping Parents let go of unrealistic expectations and embrace healthier perspectives as they move forward.
Patience - Choosing to be Patient is critical for the journey ahead! The reality is that kids often face difficult emotions when family dynamics shift and change. Loyalty binds, parental allegiances, grief and loss from their past can create barriers for them in accepting and bonding with a new step-parent. Everyone in the family will need time to find a sense of belonging as the family forms it's new identity.
Parents, try to relax and give your kids the time each one needs to adjust to all the changes - you might want to learn how 'Emotion Coaching' can be beneficial in helping children to process through their emotions. And remember that healthy bonding with a new step-parent takes time - it cannot be forced or rushed.
For more stepfamily life tips, download your free copy of our ebook today!
Persistence - Be persistent and stay dedicated to parenting your kids. Although it's nice to have a partner to help carry the load, don't abdicate your role as the primary authority in your kids' lives. A big mistake step-couples can make is allowing the step-parent to discipline step-kids before a bonded relationship had formed.
Parents, continue to set healthy boundaries and consistently follow through with your kids. And don't stop learning and growing in your role as disciplinarian - take classes, read books or reach out for support if you need to, but this isn't the time to ease up or delegate. Persist as the ultimate source of authority for the long haul as your kids adapt to step-family life and move through all their developmental stages.
Partnership - Often parents feel 'stuck' between what their kids want and what their new partner wants - it seems that everyone has their own set of expectations. In the early years of our marriage I got stuck here - I wanted to work with Mike and make decisions together, but I really struggled to do that because I worried how my daughter would react. Parents can also struggle with where to focus their time and energy and how to meet everyone's needs. This is challenging stuff!
Unity is important for step-couples and parents need to choose to work with their new spouse. Talk openly about your feelings of being 'stuck'. Invite them in and discuss parenting decisions, house rules and routines together (behind closed doors). Then, listen to your spouses 'outsider' perspective and be open to implementing new rules and routines, slowly and strategically - when the timing feels right for the kids.
Meet these challenges head on and don't avoid communicating, even if some issues are sensitive or it feels a little uncomfortable. And, do your best to stay united when disagreements arise. Your willingness and ability to compromise, make sacrifices for the kids and have empathy for each other is crucial to your partnership…and to your blended family's success!
Don't Stay Stuck
Parents, don't let unrealistic expectations leave you feeling 'stuck' in frustration and disappointment. Let go of what you thought stepfamily life would look like. Instead, embrace a new vision for your family's journey through patience, persistence and partnership!
QUESTION: Parents, what 'idealistic vision' of stepfamily life do you need to let go of?