It is rare to be proud of being in a stepfamily. Many stepfamilies struggle with inequality between the adults regarding parental rights and responsibilities, and regarding finances and decision-making. Children are also frustrated by inequality in the discipline and love they receive.
“I am so embarrassed that I just don’t seem to be the stepmother my husband wants me to be, or that the children need,” said K. “I just wish they came with a manual.” She is just one of many women (and men) feeling shame and frustration over their inability to make the family happier. Many people are embarrassed to admit that they are clueless about how to make their stepfamilies connect and work well. The following tips will help clear up some of the confusion:
- Pride yourself for having the courage for having made a commitment to a partner who has children from a previous relationship. It is a challenge you chose to take on out of love to your significant other.
- Commit to learning about the stepfamily process with your spouse. Information on how to establish realistic expectations and plan achievable goals will help you realize that creating a joyous environment at home is within your reach.
- Remember, stepfamilies are different from biological families. Understand, accept, and embrace that they are different, not better or worse.
- Celebrate your uniqueness with your family, friends, and community. You may organize a stepfamily picnic for your community where stepfamilies can meet and support each other.
- When you and your spouse start being proud of your stepfamily, your children will follow suit, and probably most people around you.
- Spread the word about what you are learning to other stepfamilies, to your extended family, and to your friends.