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Stepparenting Isn’t For Wimps

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Dr. Meg Meeker

A good stepparent can literally turn the life of a child around. So while the task may feel unbearable at times, the rewards are unparalleled. I know.  I’ve seen a lot of great stepparents in action.

One of my readers recently asked me to write specifically about stepmothers and stepdaughters. Let’s take a look into this (often complicated) relationship:

First, remember that being the same sex sets up tension because stepdaughters may feel that stepmothers are competing with biological mothers and with the daughter themselves. You get the double-whammy. Biologic mothers simply contend with a daughter wanting to compete with her. Second, a stepmother comes into the life of a young girl who already has a mother-daughter relationship established. Whether that relationship is good or bad, the stepmother needs to understand that the daughter already has a pattern of relating with which she is very familiar. Naturally, the daughter will tend to repeat the same type of relating when it comes to communicating with her stepmother.

Here’s my advice for you stepmothers…

  1. Take a deep breath and move slowly. Then move slower still. Your job is to help your new daughter over many years. Don’t move into her life with anything to prove or disprove. Just be with her. Ask questions. Show interest in her and be genuine. No fake, nicey-nice stuff. Be real. This will encourage her to trust you.
  2. Talk only positively about her biologic mother. I can’t stress this enough. When you refuse to criticize her mother (regardless of her mother’s character) you do one very important thing: you keep the daughter from being defensive about her mother. If your stepdaughter feels that she doesn’t have to defend her mother, then she’s free to open up to you about her real feelings.
  3. Let Dad do the disciplining and you simply back him up.Many stepmothers make the mistake of moving in ready to “fix” a daughter’s problems. This never works in the short term. If your stepdaughter is mouthy or disrespectful, don’t take her personally. Remember hurts in kids come out sideways. You are the sounding board for a lot of her angst, not the cause of it. So try and be patient.
  4. Help her father out. One of the best things that you can do for your stepdaughter is to help strengthen her relationship with her Dad. Since he’s the grown-up, the burden is on his shoulders to reach out to his daughter. So encourage him to spend time with her, show her affection and build her up. The best way to do this is to let him know how important he is to her. If he has made mistakes, encourage him to move past them and go forward. Fathers are very sensitive when it comes to their daughters, so kindly build him up, and don’t tear him down.

Are any of you out there stepmothers? What is the hardest part of the job? Did I leave anything unanswered?

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