Self-Care for Stepparents
If you’re a stepparent, you may think of “self care” as a foreign concept. One stepmom said, “I feel like a person whose appointment book is always facing out for other people to write in!” Not a lot different from being a parent, but many stepparents have the responsibilities of parents PLUS. That’s why self care is so important. Here are some ideas:
1. Find a trusted someone to talk to. Sometimes it’s awkward complaining to your partner who may feel divided loyalties, depending on who’s in the family. A professional who understands stepparenting pressures can be a great help.
2. Appreciate your unique role. If you’re the stepparent, you aren’t a “replacement parent” (you can relax about that). You can, however, be a child’s special adult – not a buddy, but a trusted presence who is solid and willing to listen. How many kids have that?
3. Schedule these three special dates. Date #1: You deserve time off – whether it’s an afternoon or evening at the library, time to take a course, time to go to the spa, the gym, or just time for a walk. Date #2: You and your partner need to build your relationship. This is one of the big differences between a blended family and the “first marrieds.” For the stepparents, there hasn’t been a time without the children, so you’ll need to create it. Date #3: Make a special time for just you and one of the children, and your partner should do this too. If you’re the stepparent, this will give you an opportunity to truly listen to each child, which is the basis of a solid relationship.
4. Stress is normal – it’s not a signal you’re doing something wrong. A recent study suggested that the amount of “built-in stress” in a stepparenting family depends on the configuration. The least stressful (a relative term!) was a family in which the woman has children and the man does not (some visitation, but often not as much as when the children’s home base is elsewhere). Next most stressful was a family in which both adults have children, so visitation is inevitable (that’s a whole topic in itself). The most stressful configuration was the one in which the man is the parent and the woman does not have her own children. Which leads us to…
5. You and your partner are the most important unit. You’re like the sun in the solar system. As such, it’s vital that you are a solid unit that backs each other up in all decisions. No training the kids to go to the other partner in hopes of a “better deal.” No changing the agreement without consulting your partner. Negotiate what your joint decision is and then announce it together to the child or children involved. When the kids know that both parents are on the same page, they are less likely to go for the end-around.
You have a vital job to do. You deserve appreciation and care. You can build these essential elements into your life.
A couple additional helpful resources include: www.handinhandparenting.org, and http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/tips-for-stepparents