Becoming a step mom can be daunting. Raising kids is hard enough, but stepping into the role of a stepparent comes with its own unique set of challenges.
According to Psychology Today, there are now more stepfamilies than first families in the U.S alone. In Canada, one in ten children is living in a stepfamily; blended families are the new normal. Today, I wanted to specifically address the difficulties stepmoms face when acclimating to a new family life.
Studies show that stepmothers often have it worse than stepfathers; children, young adults and adults have a harder time accepting a stepmother. A strong loyalty to their mother, and an adverse reaction to a stepmom’s innate nature to try hard to win over the kids often results in difficulty establishing a bond.
If you’re a new stepmom, know that you’re not alone, and that with a little work and mindfulness, you can make your new family dynamic work.
The number one thing a new stepmom needs to keep in mind is that her husband’s ex will always be a powerful presence in their lives. She’s the mother of their children, and nothing will take that away. The step-parent will likely never have as much influence in decisions that impact the children, and making peace with this understanding is crucial. You don’t want to step on toes – know where you fit into the bigger picture, and don’t feel discouraged or upset if there are areas where you lack control.
On that same note, understanding the loyalty bind between children and their mother is important. It’s incredibly common for children to view their acceptance of their stepmom as a betrayal to their mother.
Children shouldn’t feel like they have to choose between their mother and step mom; it will only create unnecessary conflict within the family.
If the children are showing signs of protectiveness towards their mother, don’t take it personally; let the children know that you don’t want to replace their mother. No one could ever do that. But growing to love you isn’t a betrayal because they can love you both at the same time.
In order to build trust with the children, try to follow their lead. If it’s your weekend with the kids, but they really want to be tucked-in by mom, why not let her come over and tuck in the kids? It’s not a competition – it’s about letting the kids know that they’re the priority and that their needs will always trump any hard feelings.
Establish a good relationship with their mother. You’re essentially a team now – you’re both raising the same kids. Let her know that you have the kids best interests at heart, and that you’re willing to compromise and step back if you need to. Developing a good relationship with their mother will no doubt help your relationship with the kids as well.
Creating a new family dynamic can take time, and will undeniably come with a few bumps in the road. That’s okay. It’s the process; it’s growth. So acknowledge your wins, and appreciate those small moments that affirm your growing bond. Like when your step-daughter wants YOU to read her bedtime story for a change. Or when the kids ask you to make that mac and cheese recipe they love. Those are wins. Appreciate the good, and most importantly, don’t sweat the small stuff.
If you want to hear more advice on how to make blended families work, be sure to catch my episode dedicated to this topic on The Dating and Relationship Show.