This may sound harsh, but I'm just going to say it. Regardless of whether you love your stepkids or not, dealing with bad behaviors can be emotionally draining.
It can be irritating because they aren’t yours, you didn’t create the problems, yet you need to deal with it or else your life will be impacted in big (and often negative) ways.
You may feel like the house revolves around the child when they are present, and like you can’t relax or be yourself. This is especially true if you are sensitive to energies and feel unspoken “vibes” that you can’t explain.
You may feel like a monster or evil stepmom, and not admit you have these feelings to anyone.
I’m here to tell you it’s okay, you’re NOT an evil monster, what you’re feeling is normal.
If you’re in this situation it can feel like - to some degree - your stepchild drains your energy or ‘sucks the life/joy’ out of you.
The good news is that you CAN learn to successfully navigate life in your stepfamily, even if your personality doesn’t naturally go hand-in-hand with your stepchild's.
Here are some do’s and don’ts (many of which I had to learn the hard way), of dealing with 'needy' stepkids.
DON’T play the blame game. As a biomom and stepmom to 5 kids, I have come to understand that among children there are those who are more 'needy' than others. Before I became a biomom, my limited understanding of children meant that I blamed this excessive neediness on biomom for not raising them the 'right way’, and dad for not enforcing the rules enough. Maybe you’re in that same boat? You may believe that the lack of rules, structure and order in the other home are what create the child’s neediness and dependence on others. And although that may be true to a certain degree, rules and structures aside – there are just some children who just need more attention than others. Sometimes they have ADD or special needs, or sometimes they just have big or sensitive personalities. The quicker you can accept that you have no control over biomom’s parenting, nor your partner’s, the faster you can discover solutions that actually work for your situation. So save yourself some time and take the focus off blaming others.
DO focus on what you can do to cope. That means that if you know that certain behaviors are triggering for you, take yourself out of those situations for a while. For example, if you get frustrated at homework time because your stepchild is distracted or comes to the situation with a bad attitude, stop doing homework for a while. If you know that meal times are stressful for you, take yourself out of the parenting role in those situations and don’t comment or parent in those situations (at least just for the moment). This doesn’t mean you’re giving up, it means you’re taking a time-out to regroup so you can come back to do it right. You don’t need to declare it to anyone or make threats, learn to detach with love.
DO take it one day at a time. Don’t look at detaching as a permanent solution, rather a baby-step in the right direction. When you detach with love, you can later choose to re-engage when you are calm and better able to deal with the situation – whether that takes 10 min, 10 days, 10 years, or never.
DO have a long-term vision. If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter which path you take to get there, all roads lead to somewhere. You need to have a target or goal in mind so that you can measure your progress towards that goal. That doesn’t mean you hold onto your vision for dear life and reject anything that isn’t perfect. It just means you have a direction and know what you’re aiming for. Do a visioning activity alone, then you can try with your partner. Don’t expect him to have the answers for you – you need to know what you want first.
DON’T focus on how far you have to go, rather how far you’ve come. Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can accomplish in one year. This is so true as stepmoms raising emotionally needy kids. Slow and steady wins this race. If you’re just starting out, don’t try to get it all done at once – these things take time and patience. If you’ve been a stepmom for a while, don’t focus on those consistent bad behaviours that you’ve tried to change and failed at (meal time manners, clumsiness, not paying attention etc.). Falling into this negative thinking trap is easy – there’s ALWAYS something negative you can choose to focus on. Instead, catch yourself when you find yourself in that desperate, negative place, and re-focus. Look back and see how far you’ve come, and focus on those areas where there have been improvements. It’s showing up daily and baby steps that will add up to big leaps towards the goal you’re working towards, so celebrate the small wins along the way. It may not seem like much, but often it’s like the story of the Chinese bamboo tree. You will see no growth above the surface for YEARS, then one day, before you know it, a break through happens and they grow 60 ft in a matter of weeks.
Do you feel like your stepkids drain you emotionally? How do you cope?
If you need support check out my group program below to help you live your best life as a stepmom, despite the chaos going on around you!