Being a parent is already tough, but trying to be a good step parent is a whole different ballgame! In this episode of ‘The Kickass Relationship Show,’ Lori and David Sims discuss their challenges and breakthroughs of blending their families together.
Here’s their story, as spoken from Lori Sims…
“In our second year of our blended family, we were ready to give up. It was too much. Nobody was happy! We were all miserable. The resentment between the stepkids and myself (the stepmom) was really bad. It was horrible. I felt like the stepkids were bullying my son. The stepkids were trying to destroy our marriage. The in-laws were causing issues. We were not blending in any sense of the word unless being pulverized is the objective of the blend.
The funny thing is, we had “prepared” for the blend. We didn’t have rainbow and unicorn fantasies of what it was going to be like. We had researched it thoroughly. We even met with a family counselor before getting married. When we were looking at the point of me moving out, which means getting divorced, because I wasn’t coming back if I left, we decided to meet with the same counselor again. During this meeting, the counselor said something that later resonated with me. It caused me to see things in a completely different aspect! We completely did a 180 with how we were trying to blend, and it was amazing! We did the opposite of what all the research said! It sounded crazy at first, and it wasn’t easy and took time, but the results are better than we could have hoped for. I even learned to love my stepkids! By fighting our way through, my husband and I have a stronger relationship than we did before.”
The challenges that David and Lori outlined in the interview included:
- Misplaced expectations. David talked about how he wanted Lori to step up and take the role of being his four boys’ mother. The boys thought of her as an overbearing drill sergeant when she asked them to shower, eat her cooking, or get out of bed. Lori and David quickly found out that traditional roles often don’t work.
- Taking your kids’ side. It’s natural to want to support your children; however, this can be seen as disrespect to your new spouse. It also gives the children more ammunition to drive the parents further apart.
- You deal with biological parents and in-laws. Not only might your spouse be taking their kids’ side but your in-laws and their biological parent probably are too. Talk about feeling ganged up against!
- Coming in second. It’s common for the new spouse to feel as though they are second fiddle to the original parent and to the kids, causing a spiral of resentment
- Not liking your stepkids. Kids need time to allow their resentment of the new marriage, to settle. We all know kids have a way of expressing their dislike in very colorful and often, unpleasant ways. Lori expressed that it’s okay if you don’t fall in love with the kids right away. It takes time to form a bond.
So what the heck do you do???
- Accept that they are not your kids! Allow the biological parent to parent how they choose. Lori took the approach of being more of a roommate and wholly disengaged from parenting duties of David’s children.
- Don’t react to things you cannot change. This helps you have peace of mind.
- Re-engage slowly and with humor. Lori said it took her about a year before she began taking a more active part with her stepchildren. Laughing and playing were very instrumental.
- Say 5 positives for every negative. This is like putting more deposits in the love bank. You will need to say ‘no’ and give feedback that children may not like, but when you emphasize more kindness more often, the negatives will be received better.
- Give it time! Figure out your role that works within the family and don’t try to rush things.
- Adopt the mentality of never giving up! You naturally will work harder and come up with more creative solutions when you have this attitude.
Lori and David have been together now for nine years. All the boys have grown and express their love for both parents. It may not have been easy, but it was worth the effort, for the tight family they have developed.