Thursday, November 11, 2010

Making Father's Day less Bittersweet

Father’s Day is bittersweet for some of us stepmoms.

We may outwardly celebrate our husband’s parenting but inwardly feel angry at him for being too lax on his children—or even the fact that he has kids at all.

It’s so easy to fall into a pattern of negative thinking. The arguments over rules and the battles over schedules can leave you feeling pessimistic about the whole situation.

That’s why I think every step-parenting book should include a section about becoming happier by working on being optimistic. After all, studies show that optimists are happier and healthier than their negative counterparts, and research shows that optimists cope better with difficult circumstances than negative thinkers.

Notice I said working on in the paragraph above. For most of us, looking at the glass half-full doesn’t come naturally.

Luckily, you don’t have to have been an optimist. According to this article by Marguerite Lamb, “a tendency toward optimism is only about 25 percent genetic . . . that leaves plenty of room for life experience — not to mention your behavior — to shape your point of view.”

How can you start being a more optimistic stepmom?

1) Whenever you find yourself thinking negatively about your stepchildren or your stepmom role, stop and immediately say to yourself that the situation will be better in the future. Tell yourself things like:

• “The kids will grow out of this phase”
• “We’ll all get more used to each other as time goes on”
• “A year from now this won’t seem like a big deal at all”

2) Change your self-talk:

• Switch “I don’t know if I can take his kids’ behavior anymore” to “this is a difficult situation but I know I can handle it”
• Turn “How did I get myself into this mess” to “I am learning from this and will emerge stronger because of it”

3) Reframe the situation and search for the positive:

• Think about what you’re learning in your stepmom role and how you can apply it to other parts of your life
• For example, if you don’t have children of your own yet, think about how you’ll be more prepared for your own
• Think about how you now have more patience to apply to a difficult boss or colleague.

4) Cut out negative thinking:

• Do away with ruminating
• Quit venting so much
• Stop negative thoughts in their tracks – check out: Stopping the Negative Observer

5) Count you blessings:

• Look at the big picture of your life and make a mental list of all the good things you have going on—and not just once and a while, but every day or every few days. It sounds hokey but it works; this simple exercise helps you make looking on the bright side a habit.

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