First and foremost I’d like to say that OUR blending is a unique experience in it’s own. Any writings are relayed in a manner that fits our family’s particular situation. While not ALL blended family characteristics are the same, I THOROUGHLY attempt to broaden my horizons and write in a way that is helpful to all. It is my UTMOST priority to convey a message that is indicative of such.
No one could have told me all the struggles I’d face becoming a step-parent. Even if they could, I’d never have listened. I’m just stubborn like that. One of the biggest struggles I’ve seen across my feeds and in some of the small step-mom groups I belong to, is finding your voice as a step-mother. With the lines of step-parenthood so blurred, and so few resources available for aid in these areas, how do we know how to cross that bridge into becoming new conductors in our step-children’s lives? How do we develop a voice that’s heard?
Often at times, I think its difficult enough having your voice heard as a biological parent. I see Michael struggle with it all too often. Kids sometimes, just don’t listen. But being a third party can complicate things even more. I’ve really thought about the things I’ve done in our home, and the differences they have made when it comes down to bridging the gap between just being ‘Dad’s girlfriend’ and being a true parental figure with a voice.
Here’s just a few things that have really helped me develop a voice that’s heard in our home. Hopefully they can help you too.
Becoming a Friend First
When kids begin inhabiting with someone who was not formerly so involved in their lives, it’s a huge adjustment. One of the biggest mistakes you could make during this adjustment period, is stepping in and trying to turn your home into some kind of totalitarian government in which you are their new leader. From birth, children hold a deep-rooted unconditional love for their biological parents, but that love does not automatically extend to a child’s step-parent. Only when a child has truly and repeatedly bonded with a person, do they begin to love and trust them. If the relationship with your current or future step-child does not first begin by gaining the child’s trust, the relationship is bound to fail and your voice will most certainly not be heard the same.
So be a friend first. Listen and learn. Discover things about your step-child to be. Find out their favorite things. Spend one-on-one time with them. And put off the hard parental responsibilities until later. By taking a step back from the disciplinarian role in the beginning, you get to share a bond with your step-child that their parents don’t necessarily have. You get to be the good guy. And kids love good guys! For so long when Michael and I first started living together, I wanted nothing to do with being the disciplinarian. I didn’t want Riley to immediately see me as this authoritative figure in his life. And while Michael always kept my opinion in mind and asked for help when it came to rules and boundaries in our home, I never wanted to be front and center handling punishments. I always made sure that whatever happened, he handled it. I think this was one of the biggest contributions to the loving and trusting relationship that Riley and I now share. Since I took the time to develop the love and bond we share in our home, Riley now knows that when I tell him something, it comes from a loving place. Because I was the good guy for so long, my voice is now louder in my home.
Aretha Franklin sang it. We all want it. Respect is detrimental to developing a voice that’s heard in your home. But how do we obtain it? The answer is simple: You have to give it. There’s no way to ask for respect from your step-children if you haven’t first given it to them. Respect the child’s space and boundaries. I was fortunate enough to develop a relationship with my to-be step son early on, but I can only imagine if I’d come into the picture five years later how things might be different. Older children require more space and time to adjust to new changes. If you don’t respect these boundaries, it will only come back to bite you later on. Respect is one of the truest ways to show someone you care. By respecting your step-children they will in turn respect you more. And you’re more likely to be heard by someone who respects you than someone who does not.
Sitting Down and Having, “The Talk”
No. Not THAT talk. I mean the one where you and your significant other sit down with your current/future step-child and discuss your new role in the child’s life. This is really important, and it changed a lot in our home. There came a point in time when it was necessary for me to start taking on more disciplinarian responsibilities in our home. I began spending more time with Riley. I stayed home with him during the summer time. There were many instances where Michael wasn’t home and I was the only one who could step-in and apply repercussions to a negative situation. At first, I received some resistance. That’s when we took the step to sit down with Riley and talk about who I was in our home and explained to him that my voice mattered just as much as Dad’s did. This really helped him to fill in the dots, and to understand and appreciate my role in his life even further. And I can’t say enough how much it changed when it came down to making my voice heard.
Making Sure Your Man’s in Your Corner
There’s nothing more important when it comes down to having a voice in your home, than being sure that you have support from your spouse. And that doesn’t mean just having permission to have a voice in your home. Your significant other needs to be backing you up every step of the way. Children are mirrors. They reflect what is shown around them. If a child begins to see that they can get away with not listening to you, or that they can skirt around you and get a different answer from Dad, that is exactly what they’re going to do! Dad isn’t backing you up, why should they listen? This is important in even traditional parenting arrangements, and even more so in the blended family unit.
Lastly, you need to be genuine. Kids are intuitive. They can tell when you’re trying to pull the wool over their eyes. Be in it for the right reasons. Reach down inside yourself and think about the reasons you want to have a voice in your step-child’s life. If it isn’t because you truly care and want to help make a positive difference in their lives, stop now. No kid deserves to come into what’s already strange new territory for them, only to be greeted by some kind of power complex. Be the good and emphasize those good intentions. Not only to make your voice heard, but to provide your step-child with some positive reassurance.
Having a voice in your home is important, but if you allow your step-child to help set the pace of development of that voice, you’ll be better off in the end. Keep your step-child’s best interests at heart, and you’ll be just fine.
Remember, I’m no expert. And I try to do the best I can to help others based off the experiences I’ve had in my own home- experiences that could vary quite drastically from those in your home. Have different experiences? I’d love to hear your advice as well! Leave a comment below!