Enjoy this collection of stepparenting advice from the author and other stepparents and stepparenting experts. Find additional tips and discussions at Mama J’s Parenting Posts and click the Stepparenting category to see all posts.
How I wish that I’d had the presence of mind to sit down with the kids from day one and begin: “I know this is hard.”
Make the implicit explicit.
– Dr. Mark Benn, psychologist, adjunct professor Colorado State University
Speaking the unspoken and telling it like it is possibly the hardest yet most valuable thing you can do in your grieving stepfamily. How I wish that I’d had the presence of mind to sit down with the kids from day one and begin: “I know this is hard.” I could have helped set the tone for direct communication from the very start of our relationship. Instead, I assumed that if we acted like a family, we would become a family. Not so.
The good news is that it’s never too late to begin uncovering what your family members are thinking and feeling. When the angst is out on the table, then maybe you can do something about it.
Stepparenting the Grieving Child explains why making the implicit explicit is so important, and gives examples of how to practice direct communication so it becomes habit.
When your tendency leans toward focusing on the negative, experiment with what can happen when you choose love.
Ron Deal, founder of Smart Stepfamilies, offers this positive and thoughtful viewpoint:
“I’m convinced that God uses the stepfamily experience to teach His children about choosing love…God chose to love us even when we didn’t love Him.”
Family life in general is a spiritual training ground. Stepfamily life offers something above and beyond the regular joys and trials of family life. According to Deal, “…it offers parents and children alike the unique opportunity to reflect God’s choice to love. When stepfamily members choose to love, amazing things happen.”
Look at some of the ways stepfamily members choose to love:
- Stepparents choose to love children not their own
- Stepsiblings share with each other the honor of being called family
- Stepgrandparents give to stepgrandchildren as with their own grandchildren
When your tendency leans toward focusing on the negative, experiment with what can happen when you choose love. Thank your spouse for the love he or she shows all of your children. Write compliments to your stepchildren. Tell them you’re there when they need you. Work with your spouse to encourage stepsiblings to show kindness to one another and to communicate appreciation for one another.
If you have any stories about how choosing to love changes the climate in your stepfamily, I’d love to hear them at firstname.lastname@example.org