Sunday, February 12, 2012

Don't Try Too Hard

Despite what some people might tell you, stepmothers shouldn’t feel pressured to do things that make them unhappy at the expense of trying to make their stepchildren happy. This week I read Step Wise: A Parent-Child Guide to Family Mergers by James Dale and Alex Beth Schapiro and buy urine kit. This book has some great points, but there are few things in there that rub me the wrong way. For example this urine, they suggest that stepparents should listen to music they don’t like with their stepchildren, watch TV shows they don’t like with their stepchildren, and go to movies they don’t like with their stepchildren, etc. etc. Halfway through the book they state, “the point is that you give and they get; the point is that they come ahead of you” (Dale & Shapiro 2001) and fake urine.

Now, I understand that compromise is a part of being a family quick fix. By all means go ahead and join your stepkids on the couch for an episode of Rap Stars or whatever every once and a while. But don’t start consistently doing a bunch of things you don’t like to do just because you think it’s going to make your stepkids like you more. You’re only going to end up feeling frustrated. You can buy quick fix synthetic urine

Friday, February 3, 2012

Gaining Affection from your Stepchildren, Part III

This week I’m sharing advice on some simple things you can do to start gaining affection from your stepchildren. These are little things to start out with, the kind you can begin with and then build on as time passes.

Praise Others
Research shows that people subconsciously associate us with the things we say about other people. This effect, called trait transfer, means that if you talk about how other people are selfish or annoying, others will associate you as being that way, too. So praise the people around you. Besides being a nice thing to do, your stepchildren will associate you as having the good traits you describe.

Do Small Nice Things
Do very small nice things for your stepchildren without calling attention to them or expecting a thank you. The theory of reciprocity says that when we receive a gift, we feel obligated to make a return gesture. Newsflash—your stepchildren don’t want to feel obligated to you. However, they do want to feel accepted and comfortable, and small gestures like cooking a favorite meal or going to a movie together are good for this.

I say small things specifically, because doing big things without expecting a return is hard. Even if you tell yourself that you’re bending over backwards for the good of the kids, you’ll still end up feeling resentful over time if you never get a thank you. Trust me, I know this one from experience!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Stepfamilies as "Reconstituted" Families

Five days ago my laptop died. My tech-savvy FH has tried each day since to coax it back from the grave, but to no avail. So here I am working on a borrowed computer and mourning the loss of the dozens and dozens (and dozens) of blogs and articles I had bookmarked.

As I’ve been fretting over all the scholarly articles I had saved in my Favorites list, I was reminded of something about them that’s been bothering me for a while. Namely, that a lot of the scholarly articles I’ve read about stepfamilies refer to them as “reconstituted families.” (See here , here, and here for a few examples.) One article even refers to stepfamilies as “recreating families."

This description frustrates me because I think it’s both degrading and inaccurate. The word reconstituted means that something has been “reconstructed, restored, or rearranged.” In reality, though, a stepfamily is not just a family that has been rearranged. A stepfamily is a completely new family with its own unique joys and challenges.

I think as a stepmother it’s important to keep in mind that our family isn’t any less valuable, any less real of a family, just because we or our spouse has children from a previous relationship. A family by definition is the bond between all sorts of relations: adults, children, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and third cousins; a family is the bringing together of people who love one another.