Is Fear Stopping You From
Being Involved In Your Stepkids' Lives?
I often hear this: "The stepkids don't love me; they don't even like me." "Their mom hates the idea of having me around, and I can't seem to be doing anything right." "I get so upset that all I want to do is hide or give up."
This is a common theme among many stepmoms, believing the children don't want them around. Although there is some truth in this conviction, it's not always accurate either.
Most stepmoms come into the relationship with good intentions. They want to help, be part of the family, and feel included. They start by organizing the home, planning meals, doing laundry, pickups, and drop-offs, all with the intention of making life easier for everyone, including the stepkids.
But when the household doesn't respond the way stepmom expected or even anticipated, rejection sets in, and she pulls back. She's feeling hurt. Her partner senses there's something not quite right. Tension builds up and tempers flare. The stepkids retreat into their world of computers and video games, not wanting to be a part of the drama.
Now the cycle begins.
The more stepmom retreats, the more the kids act up or retreat. The little gremlins start telling stepmom, "You see, I told you the kids don't like you. They don't even want to talk with you anymore." And she starts to believe her gremlins. The more stepmom listens, the further she withdraws.
I have nothing against pulling away and stepping back from doing too much in the home, from becoming over-involved. If you're finding yourself taking over for dad and/or mom, then yes, by all means, it's time for you to take a step back. Your stepkids will resent you for taking charge when in reality, what they want is for their parents to step up.
Pulling away may not be the answer.
You might be tempted to think that pulling away from the stepkids makes everyone happier. This could be true, but it might also make the situation worse. There are different reasons for backing off, as I mentioned above. If you're retreating because you're afraid of getting hurt, of building a relationship with your stepkids, hear me out.
What I want to address here is being afraid of building a relationship with your stepkids for fear of getting hurt. It's about building a wall around yourself so that you won't feel distressed, isolated, or rejected by your stepkids. It's a form of control over others by keeping your distance. It may feel safe at the moment to avoid confrontations; unfortunately, it will also leave you feeling empty and invisible.
What you can do instead.
Here are a few suggestions you might consider trying instead of surrounding yourself behind a wall. Approach your stepkids from the perspective of getting to know them as individuals rather than extensions of their parents.
Who are these stepkids of yours?
What are their interests?
What makes them tick?
What do they value or believe in?
Try to find out what you have in common and begin there. If that seems farfetched, start with what their interests are and ask a few questions. If your stepson enjoys video games, ask him about the video, who the characters are, what the object of the game is, and where he is in terms of skill level. If you're stepdaughter's into music or fashion, ask her who is her favorite artist or designer and why. You might want to ask them about what foods they love and see if they might want to show you how they prepare their favorite meal.
When you replace fear with curiosity, your stepkids will start to open up to you. You start seeing them through different lenses. You build the "know, like, trust" factor that helps build relationships, one STEP at a time. And while this means you are being vulnerable to being hurt and rejected, it also means you are being included as a member of the family.
Want to talk more about your fears or concerns in getting close with your stepkids? Let's get together and see what we can do to connect with them and be a part of the family.
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NOTE: Want to use this article for your blog, e-zine or Web Site? You are welcome to reprint this entire article verbatim if you include the following: “Claudette Chenevert is the Stepmom Coach and founder of Claudette Chenevert LLC. Claudette helps stepmoms navigate the nontraditional path of stepparenthood. Get your tools for creating the family life of your dreams by visiting https://www.stepmomcoach.com Claudette Chenevert, Claudette Chenevert LLC.”