Thursday, May 21, 2009

Stepparenting Made Easy - in 3 Simple Steps

I've been teaching my stepfamily clients for over a decade now that, "stepparenting isn't nearly as hard as most steppers make it!" What I mean is, all you have to do to be a successful stepparent is to love your spouse and their kids unconditionally, consistently, and more than yourself. That's our simple marching orders from out Leader: "love your 'neighbor' as yourself," love never fails, and "consider others more important than yourself." (Those are in the Bible: Matthew 22:39, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, and Philippians 2:3-8)

Now what does that mean in a real life, stepfamily, situation? We (remember, I'm a stepparent, too) are to completely open our hearts to this new family, "warts and all." And we are to place their needs before our own. BUT we are not to take over and try to re-create them in our own idea of a perfect family. If your new husband had no legs when you married him, you made a contract to love him as he is. You don't begin insisting he walk! And if he's a (particular sort) of father to his kids, you might lovingly make helpful suggestions once or twice (any more than that is nagging!), but how he raises his kids is his business.

You and I signed on as a spouse, not as a co-parent. God in His infinite and sometimes-really-hard-to-understand wisdom chose the biological parents of your stepkids. We may never know why in this life but He selected the ones He felt were right for the job. ... and it was NOT you or me. We get the *privilege* of being a blessing to them, but we ain't their mama or daddy! We are allowed to contribute input and assistance from time to time when the bio-parent requests it, but only then.

1) your stepkids have bio-parents (BPs) already
2) we are not them
3) but we can be invited to help by BPs

This is how our job becomes much, much (much) easier than most of us make it. We are not responsible for how these children turn out. …
We are not responsible for how these children turn out.
(say it with me ...)
We are not responsible for how these children turn out.
We are not responsible for how these children turn out.
That job has already been Assigned to others.

Our job is to love our spouse and their children no matter what they say, or do, or vomit out of their precious little mouths at us. Love them. Period.

"Think of them more highly than ourselves" means, don't despair of their abilities to raise their own children. For some reason they were Picked to raise these kids. We are the special dessert they get just for choosing us! We are not the main dish in the meal. If you see your spouse doing something stupid in raising their child, gently, respectfully suggest another way to them. If they take your advice, you have bragging rights forever (no, not really, be humble!); if they ignore you, it's their right. Just like it's your right to ignore outsiders who tell you how to raise your kids.

"Outsiders!!!" Yes, we're outsiders to this family. We have been invited in by one part of the family (spouse) and are a part of him/her, but we DID NOT marry the whole family. They have already established their habits, their quirks, and their oddities long before we came along. It is high minded and rude of us to assume that we need to change them, no matter how "wrong" their ways look to us (the invited outsiders).


Life as a stepparent can be so very much easier to bear if we will keep in mind that our job is just to love them no matter what. Our job is NOT to fix them or change them or re-create them.

Step back. Sit down. Take a deeeeep breath. Let it out. Take another deeeep breath. Let it out. Relax into just loving them. If they act like a zoo full of monkeys, well, then get a bag of popcorn and enjoy your front row seat! Sometimes monkeys is monkeys. You can put hats on them and teach them to play the banjo, but they still are just cute, lovable, fun-to-be-around monkeys.

You'll give yourself a sprain if you keep trying to make them conform to your ideas of what they should be like.

Stepparenting is really quite easy, IF YOU DO IT RIGHT.

Love, joy, and peace
STEPcoach Bob Collins

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