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Stepmom 911: 5 Common issues and solutions

Being a stepmom can definitely be challenging. You don’t want to be viewed as a pushover or a wicked stepmother. Learn how to develop positive relationships with your stepkids and deal with these common stepparenting issues.

Stepmother with stepdaughter

Different approaches to discipline

Quick tip: Stress your values and expectations, and also give some positive examples of how things are different in your home — just make sure to never bash their biological mother or her own approaches.

Discipline and house rules are some of the biggest issues when it comes to blended families. No doubt, in your first year as a stepmom you’ll hear, “My mom lets me do it!” You can’t control the rules, limits and consequences at the ex’s house. However, you need to provide the children with some consistency. Talk to your husband and establish the ground rules for your home. In the beginning, don’t try to change drastically from what the kids are used to expecting. They’ve had enough change in their lives with the divorce, and you don’t want to come across as the wicked stepmother. Let your husband handle the discipline for the first six months to a year. This will provide your kids with some stability, and will allow them the opportunity to get to know you in a way other than as an authority figure. If the children are older, carefully explain that different households sometimes have different ways of handling things.

Dealing with disrespect

It’s one thing for your stepchildren not to like you right away, but it’s a completely different issue when they disrespect you. Though you might want to respond to disrespect in an immature manner, you need to realize that these children have gone through a tremendous upheaval in their lives. You signed up for this — you knew your husband had kids when you married him. They didn’t sign up for this. Most kids behave poorly due to anger, fear and a loss of control. Stepchildren are looking for someone to blame and that person is you. No matter how difficult it seems, don’t take it personally. Allow your husband to handle any discipline or consequences when his kids act disrespectfully toward you. Continue to treat them with kindness and respect as you try to gain their trust. Don’t expect your stepkids to love you overnight. Your relationships will take time and patience.

Read about how to raise respectful children >>

Handling disinterest

Some children become very withdrawn during a divorce. They act like nothing bothers them, but become increasingly disinterested in the family dynamic. You can’t blame them. Their picture-perfect family has dissolved, and all of a sudden they are dealing with a new parent — you. You need to create a mutual sense of trust with each of your stepkids. Treat each one as an individual, rather than always dealing with them as a group. Spend one-on-one time with each kid and take a genuine interest in their lives. Find some activities or events you can enjoy together without your husband around. As important as it is to spend one-on-one time with the kids, you should also schedule family time where you participate in fun activities together as a group. This will reinforce the idea that you are now part of their cohesive family unit. Sharing experiences and creating memories as a family is key to developing positive relationships.

Drifting from your husband

You just got married to the love of your life, but now you seem to be drifting apart already. Being a blended family isn’t easy and stepparenting can take its toll on a marriage very quickly. Don’t let your stepkids pit you against one another or let a meddlesome ex-wife cause any issues. Plan date night with your hubby once a week. Even if you just spend a couple hours together, it will allow you to vent a little, recharge your batteries and stay connected with one another.

Read these ways to keep date night exciting >>

Stepparenting at the holidays

The holiday season can be very difficult on children of divorce. If possible, make your wedding plans early in the year so you’ll have many months before having to deal with Thanksgiving and Christmas for the first time as a stepmom. This is often the hardest time of the year for blended families. Start planning as early as possible. Talk to your husband about the important family traditions that he’d like to maintain with his ex-wife and kids. Get together as a family and discuss your holiday plans. Allow the children to help decide what you are going to do and when you are going to do it. Be willing to compromise a little bit on your expectations, and try to honor their requests. If your stepkids want to open their gifts on Christmas morning at their mom’s house, then let them do that. You can always open gifts the night before Christmas, or later in the afternoon on Christmas Day. Establish new family traditions as well — stringing popcorn to decorate the tree, caroling together on Christmas Eve or going to church at midnight.

Read more tips for navigating the holidays with a blended family >>

Life vs. fiction

Another Piece of My Heart

Want more? Check out a great read in the new SheKnows Book Lounge: Another Piece of my Heart by bestselling author Jane Green, a powerful novel that explores the complications of a woman marrying into a ready-made family, and the true meaning of motherhood. Head to our new SheKnows Book Lounge now.

More tips for stepmoms

What you need to know about raising stepchildren
5 Things a stepparent should never do
Raising a blended family: 9 Dos and don’ts

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