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8 Tips to Bond with Your Stepchild and Create Positive Memories as a Stepfamily

8 Tips to Bond with Your Stepchild and Create Positive Memories as a Stepfamily

remarriage manualUNDERSTANDING YOUR STEPCHILD

Victoria was about 10 years old when her father, Ryan, married Lisa. In her view, she had little control over the events unfolding in her life, including her mother remarrying and starting a new family quickly.

Even though Lisa seemed nice enough and obviously really loved her dad, it still didn’t seem fair to Victoria that her life had to change so radically. When she met me for an interview, she was eager to share her perspectives as a stepchild.

In her mind, nothing would ever be the same after her parents’ split and she believes that parents ought to be more understanding about the stepchild’s plight.

Victoria reflects, “I wrote on my closet door, ‘January 18 was the worst day of my life’ — the day of my parents’ divorce. For me, divorce meant changes in where I lived, changes at school and with friends and having to spend time with new adults I didn’t particularly want to spend time with.

No one asked me if I wanted any of those things to happen, but they did, without my consent, and sometimes without warning.”

During our in-depth interview, Victoria speaks with anguish about both of her parents getting remarried around the same time. She explains, “I had a teacher tell me that if I loved my parents, I would accept their significant others because I’d want them to be happy. Inside I was screaming, ‘What about my happiness?’”

These are hard issues, and there are no easy fixes, but following these tips can help you weather the rough times and be a supportive stepparent.

8Tips to Bond with Your Stepchild and Create Positive Memories as a Stepfamily

  1. Proceed slowly. Take your time getting to know your stepchild. If you rush the relationship, it may satisfy your own unmet needs to be liked, but your approach could backfire. It’s important to realize that you’re not replacing your stepchild’s other parent; your role is more of a mentor. Never make your stepchild feel as if they have to choose between their biological parent and you. Over time, everyone in the recoupled family can create a positive culture together.
  2. Respect your spouse’s relationship with your stepchild. And don’t feel threatened by their close connection. Your partner will want to spend special time with their child, so try not to feel neglected by them. Make plans with your friends or with your own kids and graciously step out of their way.
  3. Develop a relationship with your stepchild through daily activities, hobbies, and shared interests to create positive memories. Strive to engage in activities as a family unit as much as possible so everyone has an opportunity to make a connection. Sharing interests in sports or the arts can help you develop a bond. Spending time together, even if it’s eating a meal or watching a movie, can help weave the fabric of stronger stepfamily relationships.
  4. Understand your stepchild’s view and have realistic expectations. First, it’s a given that your stepchild had a relationship with your spouse that existed before you came on the scene. They’re likely to see you as a rival to both of their parents. Even if your stepchild seems to like you well enough, they will sometimes prefer you weren’t in the picture and may express this by ignoring you or being indifferent or rude. Your remarriage effectively ends any hope of their mother and father reunifying and can reignite feelings of loss for your stepchild.
  5. Be sure to discuss roles and feelings about parenting with your spouse. Sometimes a biological parent may not understand a stepparent’s feelings of rejection. They may need you to tell them what they can do to support you. On the other hand, a biological parent may feel criticized and get defensive when their spouse offers unsolicited advice about parenting. Blending your sometimes-opposing styles of parenting and focusing on what you have in common will benefit all family members.
  6. Be courteous and respectful of your child’s and stepchild’s “other parent.” Keep in mind that it is likely that they would not have chosen to have their children live with them part-time. Stepparents need to stay out of interactions between biological parents working out holiday or vacation schedules, and biological parents need to be collaborative when planning family events.
  7. Realize that love often comes later. Even if you don’t hit it off with your stepchild, you can still develop a working relationship built on respect. If your stepchild does not warm up to you right away, that does not mean you have failed. Adopting realistic expectations can help you get through some rough spots. Be patient and try not to react with anger if your stepchild gives you the cold shoulder or is a little impolite sometimes.
  8. Cooperate with your partner, and talk, talk, talk. Most of the talking will take place away from your children or stepchildren, but be sure to have cordial conversations and informal discussions about family rules, roles, chores, and routines with the kids.

TERRY GASPARDMSW, LICSW is a licensed therapist and author. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TheGoodMenProject, The Gottman Institute Blog, and Marriage.com. Her new book, out now, is THE REMARRIAGE MANUAL: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around.

Follow Terry on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com.

Excerpted from THE REMARRIAGE MANUAL by Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW. Credit Terry Gaspard. Reprinted with permission of Sounds True. All rights reserved.

The post 8 Tips to Bond with Your Stepchild and Create Positive Memories as a Stepfamily appeared first on Divorced Moms.



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The Positive Ripple Effects of a Successful Divorce Mediation

The Positive Ripple Effects of a Successful Divorce Mediation

There are many positive ripple effects that can result after the couple reaches an agreement in mediation. These positive ripple effects can benefit the couple and their children for years to come.

The post The Positive Ripple Effects of a Successful Divorce Mediation appeared first on Divorce Magazine.

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An Example of the Power of Positive Co-Parenting

An Example of the Power of Positive Co-Parenting

The results of our positive co-parenting revealed themselves in how our daughter feels she can now talk about her parents in the same sentence; this never occurred in the past.

The post An Example of the Power of Positive Co-Parenting appeared first on Divorce Magazine.

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Children and Divorce: 3 Tips for Positive Communication During Divorce

Children and Divorce: 3 Tips for Positive Communication During Divorce

If you haven’t learned by now, then it is time you know, the healthy way to deal with stress is to communicate about the issues that are causing the stress. This is true regardless of what age a person is. Your child may be feeling anger, fear or sadness, and unsafe when it comes to expressing those feelings.

The post Children and Divorce: 3 Tips for Positive Communication During Divorce appeared first on Divorce Magazine.

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the key to success in second marriages

Positive Ways Of Relating: The Key To Success in Second Marriages

the key to success in second marriages

 

Most likely, when you remarry you’ll feel excited about having a second chance at happiness. However, both partners might hold unrealistic expectations that things will run on automatic and love will conquer all problems. Being aware of potential communication differences and barriers to positive ways of relating can help you stay strong and resilient as you navigate the challenges of remarried life.

For instance, we all have a unique style of communicating based on our upbringing, culture, personality, gender, and past relationships. Maybe one of you is extroverted and the other is more reserved. These differences in personalities can cause significant misunderstandings and become potent filters or lenses for how you see and interpret your partner’s behavior.

It’s also true that in a second marriage, couples bring styles of communicating based on their first (or second marriage), and their way of relating to their ex-spouse, that may become deeply ingrained and thus more difficult to alter. Over time, the challenges of living in a remarried or blended family may accentuate conversational differences – especially if one or both partners have unresolved trust issues.

The Key To Success in Second Marriages

For instance, Pam and Dave, both in their late fifties, remarried for fifteen years, and living in a stepfamily, grew up in vastly different cultures. Pam describes her family as loud and expressive, while Dave’s family is reserved and stoic. During our in-depth interview, Pam said she found these differences interesting in the early stages of their marriage, but they began to irritate her after several years of living together.

Pam explains: “Because I was raised in an Italian family that had poor boundaries, my tendency is to say what’s on my mind. Dave, on the other hand, usually weighs out what he is going to say and has a good internal filter. It’s also hard to know what he’s thinking because he shuts down a lot. The problem is that we can both be judgmental and we have misunderstandings and disagreements because we don’t trust each other.”

During our interview, Pam and Dave both acknowledged they had trust issues from their first marriages that were filters for how they interpreted each other’s comments and behavior. For instance, Pam’s ex-husband left suddenly to move in with a co-worker. After Dave’s divorce, he discovered that his ex-wife cleaned out their savings and had been hiding credit card debt that he was unaware of.

Dave: “Honestly, Pam can be a bit harsh and blunt at times. I grew up in New England and my family is private – we believe that it’s best not to disclose much about yourself. But I learned from my first marriage that communication is important so I’m trying to open up. I have some trouble with Pam’s intrusive communication style but I love her and I think loving someone is what matters in a marriage.”

Pam responds: “We have similar interests and taste in entertainment, movies, and music. We also have similar occupations and love to travel.  I’m learning to deal with unrealistic expectations and accepting Dave for who he is. When Dave shuts me out, it sounds like an echo from my first marriage (when my ex pushed me away) but Dave is not him.

Common Misunderstandings

Many remarried couples have established an unfortunate pattern of disagreeing over trivial matters because of the high level of stress in their lives. Seasoned remarried couples will tell you that even the happiest partners will have problems. In remarried families, there are many issues that first time married couples don’t face, such as adding children to the mix – yours, mine and ours. Couples also argue about finances, housework, in-laws, and disciplining children.

Take for example this conversation between Pam and Dave after a long workday. Their dialogue illustrates the inconsequential nature of most arguments between remarried couples. Couples often fight about nothing. Most of their disagreements arise out of differences of opinion about unimportant matters such as making dinner or chores. They both admit that their raw spots from their first marriage set the stage for feelings of vulnerability, defensiveness, and fear of rejection.

Dave: “What kind of pasta should I make tonight?”

Pam: “Tortellini, what else?”

Dave: “What do you mean, “What else”?”

Pam: “Well, we usually have tortellini but I guess I could make something else.”

Dave: “Does that mean you don’t like the way I make it?”

Pam: “No. I like it but go ahead and make something else.”

Dave: “Not if you want tortellini to go with the red sauce.”

Pam: “I don’t. Make ravioli tonight.”

By this dialogue, you can see how Pam and Dave’s difficulty being clear and misreading each other’s intentions set the stage for a disagreement. When Pam added the tag onto her response “What else?” the meta-message (or underlying meaning) was “You’re a jerk for asking, you should have known.” Understandably, Dave could interpret Pam’s comment as critical and demanding (she wanted him to read her mind) and lacking in directness and clarity.

In That’s Not What I Meant! author, Deborah Tannen, Ph.D. explains, “Things seem to get worse in close relationships that continue over time because we don’t realize that communication is inherently ambiguous and that conversational styles differ, so we expect to be understood if there is love. When misunderstandings inevitably arise, we attribute difficulties to failure: our own, or the others, or a failure of love.”

The story of Pam and Dave illustrates how unresolved differences can drive a wedge between remarried couples if they’re not repaired.

The following are three tips to use to improve your communication.

  • Decide together to make a face-to-face twenty to thirty-minute stress-reducing conversation happen daily. In The Seven Principles that Make Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman explains that this conversation can help you feel more attuned with each other.
  • During this conversation (and at other times) acknowledge and show affection and appreciation for each other. A three-second kiss, holding hands, or cuddling on the couch will help you stay physically and emotionally connected. Be sure to show appreciation by pointing out something your partner does that you love. For example: “I love it when you make me a fresh cup of coffee every morning!”
  • Practice active listening and validation. Put your own agenda aside and suspend your worries and concerns about your own life while you focus on what your partner has to say. Giving your partner feedback will validate that you’re listening and that you understand and want to be close. For instance, you might say “It sounds like you had a tough conversation with your boss, that must have been disappointing since you worked so hard on that project.”

Keep in mind that active listening isn’t the same as advice and that it may take you a while to get used to this way of communicating. Most people rush in to offering solutions and solving problems and skip over listening and validation. You can strengthen your remarriage by improving your communication and making a commitment to learning more about each other every day!

 

Follow Terry Gaspard on TwitterFacebook, and movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-lasting Relationship was published by Sourcebooks in 2016.
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