- Think with the end in mind.
Think beyond this moment, beyond today or this week to the future. Our aim is for the young people in our care to grow up to be responsible adults. It is very easy to get bogged down in disagreements and despair at the way things are. Children are hard work, and step-parents often feel resentment. However, see the step-children as an investment and you will get back what you put in over and over again. Work with the end in mind. E.g. When they argue back at you, respond in a way that you would like them to respond to you, not in the way that they deserve at the moment. You showing patience, explaining things and behaving courteously will show them how to be an adult. They will thank you for it, but not now. Step-parenting is a lot of delayed gratification.
- Work in anticipation.
When wanting a change, plan for it. Work for what you want, and not what you do not want. Everyone likes to feel as though they are succeeding. So, if you set expectations for the future, and make sure everyone understands them, then that is often all you need to do. People like to please, to achieve and fulfil. Let them do this in their step-family. For example, if children misbehave when you are out, before you go out next time have a chat about the way they can behave correctly. When expectations have been met, then praise, thank and celebrate. This is in contrast to criticism. People say this is the same for bio-families, but stepfamily relationships are more fragile and can break more easily. They do not stand criticism easily, bio-families can. So praise only, work in anticipation and no ‘telling off’.
- Let the system carry the load.
When something goes wrong don’t be the one seen to try and sort it out. Step back and think about how the problem could be solved by setting up a system so the problem doesn’t exist anymore. It’s always possible to set up a system to solve the problem, by everyone knowing what should be happening. E.g. suppose the children are squabbling, or something is seen as unfair, or time is being allocated to some children more than others. Sit down and work things out, first alone, then with your partner and then discuss as a family. Work out systems to carry the load so people understand the problems, can have a say in how things are solved, and so you are not the wicked step-parent.
- The Serenity Prayer.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This speaks for itself. Step-families require more compromise because things can’t be so much your way. Look after your own wellbeing so you can continue to feel as good as possible about doing this very important job.