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Media-spun tales tend to cast a very negative light on step-parenting. We're always so caught up in the fairytales surrounding a biological and unified family that we fail to pay attention to the other reality of life.
Parenting is never a fairytale concept and often out of chance or deliberation, many do not enjoy the biological parenting that we love to harp about.
What about those families where parents are actually step-parents? When we talk about tips and rules for parenting right why don't we talk as much about the pressures on step-parenting and how to eradicate the stigma surrounding it?
The fact is that adults in step-parenting situations tend to go harder on themselves, mainly due to the fact that no matter how much they put themselves out for their children, society will always view them as Cinderella's stepmother.
The time to fix that narrative is now and the best way to begin is through step-parenting counseling.
Even in the modern century, blended families are facing unique challenges. The first important thing is to accept you're a blended family and take it as a blessing. Then seek therapy because honestly, transitioning will take years for every individual member, considering several factors.
It is best that you all sit down with a counselor and sort out your step-parenting concerns proactively and maturely. When the counselor observes your dynamics individually, they will recommend ways of how each can contribute to moving things ahead.
Even as step-parents, counselors can help you see and cope with many things you didn't see coming before and this too will improve you as a step-parent.
The anxiety of step-parents primarily begins with the uncertainty of their position and how much they can participate in their stepchildren's lives. When step-parents are unsure of their position and their roles, they feel confused and lost as to what they should do and not do.
For starters, learn to acknowledge that you are just as much responsible for your kids as their biological parents would have been. You have a right to love them as much, look after them as much and teach and nurture them as much.
Yes, initially you may encounter a lot of resistance when the stepchildren are not ready to give you that much authority in their lives. Let them take their time in accepting you completely. While that is happening, refrain from being too reactive, pushy or short-tempered. Instead, shower them with love but only as much as they like, watch out for them without being overbearing and let them see your sincerity.
Gradually, they will give you a place as their parents and you can then build your bond with them. It needs time but it will happen.
When you come together as a blended family, you may be the step-parent but you're not the only one needing counseling and therapeutic support.
Encourage your partner and the children too to go for individual therapy so you all can overcome your challenges on an individual note and contribute more positively to the family bonding.
A one-to-one with a therapist will help each vent out, share their anxieties and fears and find strength confidentially.
This will prepare each one emotionally and mentally to embrace the new relationships better and move ahead.
When you come together as step-parents and stepchildren, the situation will surely feel awkward initially. But no matter what, keep making an attempt to communicate and reach out.
Establish an open, friendly and comfortable communication way so that so the kids learn to loosen up and share with you.
If it doesn't happen on your own, reach out to a therapist to help you break the ice.
When you cannot communicate out of hesitation and fear, you may come off as a rigid step-parent and that is not the impression you want to make.
With therapy, you'll find means of opening up your communication lines and developing your new parent-child bond better.
You don't want to look like the bad step-parent, even if your new child is doing everything to make you explode.
That is the natural reaction of children when circumstances make them accept another as their parent than their own biological one.
Let the storm pass and when you find your new child in a least activated moment, try to repair things. You could start off by saying you'd like to discuss what happened the other day and how hard it was on both of you.
Try explaining when they're in a calmer state how you don't want your relationship to be bitter and you want to do everything possible to work this out with them. When you reach out with a friendly hand, it will open up the child more to you.
When you're seeking counseling as a blended family or a step-parent, make sure you discuss and work on the common issues. Pick things that are most essential for bonding your new family.
It is true that step-parenting comes with an extra set of challenges than being a traditionally biological parent.
If things begin on a wrong note, it could worsen the challenges you have to overcome to make the new children accept you and vice versa.
With a good counselor, your new role and transition will become easier. Even better is to seek as a whole blended family.
You will certainly find it works wonders for your new bonding.
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Overcomers' is a mental health care practice serving Colorado with multiple locations in Colorado Springs and Denver! We have a passion for people and being a part of their experience as they overcome challenges. What will you overcome? Book a therapy session with one of our counselors here.