BACK TO SCHOOL RULES FOR STEPMOMS
©2001 Karon Goodman
It's that time of year again -- the kids go back to school, study hard
and learn something new. They have new teachers and textbooks,
friends and finals, and sometimes hardest of all, new rules to follow.
Becoming a stepmom is sort of like going back to school, only there
are few textbooks and fewer teachers. There are, however, a whole
new set of rules to learn. But relax, most of them are in your favor.
If you aren't new at this stepmothering role but just a bit stressed and
unsure of yourself, these rules will give you a little guidance and
support, too. And best of all, no tests!
So get ready, class is now in session. Take a seat, face forward, and
learn the rules. Then you can have a snack.
Rule #1: Share. You're sharing your husband with his children, and
they're sharing him with you. You and the children will benefit by
sharing each other, too. If your relationship isn't as close as you'd like
it to be, move nearer to them.
Kids have a tough time taking the initiative with a stepparent, but they
will usually respond if you'll make the effort. Let them know that you
have much to give. Learn what makes them tick -- and let them get to
know you, too. Get involved in their lives, and invite them fully into
yours. It can be scary, but it's the way to a meaningful relationship.
Rule #2: Take a time-out. Some days, it just won't work. You try
your best, but the tension mounts, and you're ready to send everyone
to the principal's office. When a tough day comes along, recognize it
as just that and let it pass.
You can't study calculus 24 hours a day every day, and you can't be
the world's greatest stepmom 24 hours a day every day. (Believe me,
I know....) So take a break when you need one. You'll get another
chance to work on your relationship, and sometimes, it's best to just
let the bad moments go without too much worry. Rest, recharge and
focus on tomorrow.
Rule #3: Enjoy recess. On the days when it *is* good, hold on as
tightly as you can. Recognize the value of a "good stepfamily
moment." Say it out loud so that everyone else recognizes it, too.
"Didn't we have a great time outside this afternoon?" sounds like a
pointless question to ask the kids, but it reinforces the moment in their
minds. Talking about your time together will show them that it was
important to you, too.
Rule #4: Take notes. Remember what you did when those great
moments happened. How can you build on that and recreate those
feelings again and again? Talk to your husband about the good times
with your stepchildren. Be proud of your progress.
Not nearly as much fun but equally as important, understand what
went wrong in moments of failure, too. Evaluate what happened and
what contributed to the unpleasant times. Most likely, it's a pattern
and you'll recognize it quickly. Try to consciously change what's not
working into what does, then put it into practice the next chance you
Rule #5: Learn at your own pace. The local newspaper probably
won't print a headline that reads: "Wonderful Stepmom Adored by
Stepchildren!" Being loved by your stepchildren isn't a contest you
can win or a deadline you can meet. Your relationship is as unstable
as nitroglycerin and twice as volatile. You can't move it real fast or it'll
blow up in your face. Take it slowly. Measure your gains in inches,
When you take the rules here one day at a time, you'll make
tremendous progress in your relationship with your stepchildren. If
may often feel like two steps forward, twenty-eight steps back, like
you lost all your notes and there's a pop quiz today. But remember,
you're in for the full term, and one poor grade won't mean you'll fail.
Trust that the relationship you want will grow with time. Then give it
your best. The rewards are better than graduation day.
Karon Goodman, a mom and stepmom from Alabama, is a freelance writer and
the Stepparenting Guide at About.com ( http://stepparenting.about.com ). Her
book, The Stepmom's Guide to Simplifying Your Life, will be released next
spring. Karon's ebook, It's Not My Stepkids -- It's Their Mom! is available
here Visit her monthly newsletter, The Stepparenting Journey, now online.
For a free Course-by-Email: Establishing Your House Rules -- send a blank
email to karon@GetResponse.com . Contact Karon at