Last time I mentioned that I wanted to talk some more about detachment. Detachment can be described as creating a sense of indifference towards your stepchildren’s behaviors and actions; it’s a way to put a halt to your emotional reactions to them and the whole step situation. I spent this week creating a personal detachment plan. Here are some suggestions for creating one of your own:
1) First, make a list of things your stepchildren (or their parents) do that drive you crazy and hurt your feelings.
2) Next, start by thinking about ways to avoid these hot button situations. Are there any activities you can get out of? For example, I’ve decided to remove myself from pick up and drop off situations from now on; they’re just too emotionally exhausting for me.
3) Give yourself permission to leave the room. I used to feel bad about this; I felt like it was childish, like I was running away from a problem. I’ve since come to realize that there’s no shame in removing yourself from certain situations—especially ones that you feel aren't worth arguing about or where you feel like you’ve become too emotional to effectively deal.
4) Acknowledge your feelings. After some introspection I realized that part of why I get frustrated is because I feel like I’m not supposed to let myself get upset in the first place. It’s time to let myself off the hook.
5) Figure out stock phrases you can have ready for when your hot button situations arise. Try to think of things that can either diffuse the emotion or help you escape the situation without any further tension. For example, I used to get really worked up when my stepdaughter would whine, “but my Mama lets me…” over and over again. Now I just say, “well, that’s okay at Mama’s house but here we don’t (whatever). We’re not going to argue about it anymore.” It’s important to practice phrases like these on your own or with a friend—it makes it easier to remember them in the midst of an emotional moment.
6) Find ways to control your emotional reactions from the situation.
• Repeat to yourself: “I can’t control the actions of others; I can only control my reactions to their actions.” This is something I'm really focusing on.
• Nip it in the bud: Try and catch yourself before your emotions run away with you. Having a list of you hot buttons helps with this.
• Absolve yourself of responsibility for their actions: You do not have to judge yourself based on your stepchildren’s or their parents’ behavior.
• Don’t respond to jibes or even unintended annoyances: There will be times that you need to speak up and make it clear that something your stepkids have said or done is not ok in your house. Other times, letting things go helps you avoid getting sucked into emotionaly draining situations.
• Deep breathing: Make yourself stop and take a series of deep breaths. It sounds a little corny but it really works. If you can meditate, even better.
• Exercise: Your body fills up with adrenaline when you’re frustrated—you need to get rid of it, even if it’s just by taking a brisk walk.
7) Put it all together by writing it down or talking about it with a friend. Discuss your plan with your partner and family if you feel comfortable doing so. Finally, give yourself permission to put your plan into action.