Happy New Year! What are you doing to make 2016 your best year as a stepparent?
Can I give you a few thoughts to consider? Start here—don’t insist on being perfect.
We set ourselves up to fail when we try to do everything perfectly, expecting that will create the relationship we’re hoping for with our stepchild.
This year, instead of making resolutions on how to be a better stepparent, I encourage you to make room for imperfection and second chances.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Let go of your guilt. We all experience it from time to time. We do too much for our stepkids one day, while the next day we do too little. We go to bed at night thinking about the should haves of our stepparenting. We never seem to get it right. Or maybe our thinking isn’t right. Stepmom guilt comes from the expectation that we need to be a perfect stepparent because this will lead to the relationship we’re seeking. Why not choose to let go of unrealistic expectations that keep you bound to guilt when you don’t measure up?
- Forgive yourself when you fail. A defeated stepparent doesn’t parent effectively and won’t connect with his or her stepchild. When we barrage ourselves with negative self-talk over a poor stepparenting choice, we continue down a negative path. Learning from our mistakes, apologizing when necessary, and forgiving ourselves for less-than-stellar stepparenting moments, allows us to begin again with a renewed mind and fresh perspective for our next stepparenting challenge.
- Seek out support from other stepparents on hard days. My neighbor is a single parent with two school-aged children. She recognizes her need for help in juggling her responsibilities and asks other moms for help with carpool or after-school care when she needs it. Fellow stepparents understand the struggles of stepparenting—physically and emotionally—and are happy to support and encourage another stepparent who’s having a hard day or a hard season.
- Recognize the significance of loyalty conflict and how it affects your stepchildren. I can’t change the other strings pulling on my stepchild’s heart. When I acknowledge other influences in his life and recognize the role they play, I understand the relationship barriers with my stepchild. I can only influence one side of our relationship.
- Listen to your heart on how to parent your stepchildren instead of others’ opinions. It’s easy to run to the phone or social media when we’re facing a difficult stepparenting moment, but if we step back and listen to our hearts while considering our options, we make better decisions. Considering factors such as our stepchildren’s personalities, their ages, the period of time we’ve been their stepparent and our current relationship with them helps us tailor our parenting.
- Take time to run, quilt or do whatever activity works for you to regroup when the stepparenting strain takes over. Don’t wait until you’re about to go off the stepparenting cliff before making time for self-care. Balancing the demands of stepparenting with activities you can look forward to creates a well-rounded stepparent. Maybe it’s coffee with a friend or a movie with your spouse, but create some fun in your life!
- Realize that time is on your side. Stepfamily relationships grow and mature through seasons. Some of those seasons will likely be difficult. But as you work through challenges and overcome hardships together, bonds develop that aren’t easily broken. Memories are created that soften rough stepfamily edges. And in the process, beautiful relationships form.
As you start a new year, what resolutions do you need to consider? I hope you’ll strive for a positive mindset that includes room for imperfection, apologies, and do-overs.
Perhaps that’s the ticket to relationship-bonding this year on your not-so-perfect stepparenting journey.
Do you have other resolutions to offer? I’d love to hear them in the comments.
If you’re looking for other ideas on how to manage stepfamily stress and find support in your stepmom role, please consider joining us at our next Stepmom Retreat at the beautiful Winshape Retreat Center in Rome, GA (outside Atlanta). I’d love to meet you there!
And for a dose of encouragement every day, pick up a copy of our stepmom devotional, Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul.
*This article was originally published in January 2014 issue of Stepmom Magazine.
Image courtesy of chatchai_stocker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net