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    Acceptance is the Key

    By Darlene Zagata     

    It takes a very special person to be a stepparent but you may have to step back and ask yourself if you have what it takes. No relationship is perfect nor are there perfect parents or children but a relationship that consists of his, mine and ours may prove most challenging.

    My children were raised in this type of family setting and while my husband and I worked together to be fair, we were not always infallible in our judgments. To say the least, we had our share of disagreements. Although you may dearly love your significant other and his or her offspring, there may be times when you feel your child is being slighted even though this may or may not be the case. Any problems that usually arise stem from minor differences in the child rearing choices of the individual parents. Perhaps one parent has taught his children to do chores where the other has always preferred to do for her child. One parent may punish using only verbal reprimands while the other sees nothing wrong with a good old fashioned spanking. There are bound to be differences.

    I know a couple personally who are trying to work through their different parenting styles in order to come to a satisfactory disciplinary agreement for their blended family. Unfortunately, their relationship continues to be a battle on a regular basis. She claims that he treats his daughter better while he says that she babies her son. Meanwhile their relationship is on and off again more than a light switch. Are the claims of these two parents valid? I believe that they believe their claims of partiality toward each otherís children are valid. It seems that both parents are suffering from a sense of insecurity, which is certainly not that unusual considering the circumstances.

    There are several adjustments that need to be made. Together this couple has just become the parents of a newborn baby girl. In the process, they have jointly formed a new family that also includes her son and her partnerís two children. Their relationship is also complicated by an insecurity prompted by the joint custody issues with previous spouses. Jealousy and bending to the whims of ex-lovers add drama to an already stressful relationship. What the parents are missing here is the fact that four young children are caught in the crossfire of mixed and sometimes heated emotions.

    At times the behavior of the children seems much more mature than that of their parents. While the parents hurl comments such as: ďDonít raise your voice to my son,Ē ďYouíre just jealous of my kids,Ē the children appear perfectly content with one another. The problem doesnít lie with the children; itís the parents that canít get past their own issues. It is the parents who are suffering from the fear that his or her child will be treated unfairly.

    So, is the relationship doomed to fail? No, it doesnít have to fail. So, what can be done? Well, first of all the parents need to sit down together and discuss the situation openly and honestly. Plan your talk for a time when the two of you can be alone. A romantic dinner would be nice. Ask a relative or friend to watch the children for a couple of hours. If this canít be arranged for some reason then wait until the children are asleep then settle in for a quiet talk. Remember: talk donít shout. And donít beat around the bush either. If you want your partner to understand how you feel, you will need to express those feelings honestly and clearly. While many of us have no problem verbally expressing ourselves, often we forget the equally important skill of listening. Yes, listening is a skill Ė one that needs to be acquired and honed. Admit your fears and be prepared to hear the truth.

    Maybe you do spend more time with your biological child than your stepchild. Maybe you do resent the amount of time your partner spends with his children. Be honest and be prepared to get an honest response. If you are afraid that your child will not be loved as much as your partnerís biological child, say so. If you feel your child is not receiving fair treatment, explain why you feel this way. Your spouse cannot read your mind. Your spouse may be able to sense some of your feelings but he or she may not always interpret your emotions or reactions correctly.

    Open communication is essential if concerns are to be resolved. Sometimes a spouse, as well as a child just needs some reassurance to alleviate their fears and get life back on track. Stepparents also tend to overcompensate when it comes to their newfound children. This happens in an attempt to avoid the wicked stepparent image. Well-meaning stepparents usually donít even realize that they are overcompensating until it is brought to their attention. Even then, they may deny such an allegation. I am a stepparent guilty of such behavior.

    When my stepson first came to live with us, I unconsciously had a tendency to allow him to get away with behavior I would have normally punished my own children for. It wasnít until my youngest son commented that I loved my stepson more than I did the rest of my kids that I realized I needed to re-evaluate my disciplinary actions. That evening after all the kids were in bed, I asked my husband to give me an honest answer regarding what I thought was fair and impartial treatment of the children. ďYou do treat him better. Youíre overcompensating,Ē he told me. When I thought about it, I realized he was right. But it took a childís wisdom to help me see the light.

    The key is acceptance. When you make the choice to accept someone into your life you do so because you love him or her. Love overcomes differences. Love brings together the separate and creates unity. Adults can learn from children. While you and your partner are giving each other the silent treatment, take a moment to observe the children. More than likely, youíll see them playing together not sitting separately on opposite sides of the room.

    Donít try too hard to be the perfect parent or stepparent because they donít exist and donít let insecurity consume you or your family. Just love the kids and each other and youíll do fine. But there is another issue that needs to be addressed. These are real life situations and unfortunately real life doesnít always have happy endings. There are some people who just arenít cut out to be stepparents or parents at all for that matter. Hereís an example: After my divorce from my first husband, I became involved with a man that I had a wonderful relationship with. In many ways he seemed to good to be true. I soon found out that he was. He knew that I had two young sons and he never gave any indication that he was not accepting of my children, until the day he asked me to marry him. Before I could answer, he asked me another question that sent my heart reeling to my feet. He asked me if I would consider giving my ex-husband full custody of my two sons. He explained his request by saying that he honestly didnít feel he could raise someone elseís children. I appreciated this manís honesty but suffice it to say, I chose my children over him. The answer to both questions was a vehement NO!

    The reason Iíve related this story is to make the reader aware that such situations do occur. Although it may be difficult to imagine, there are people out there who may accept you but not your children. If you feel this way, then you should be honest about your feelings up front. If you donít think youíve got what it takes to be a stepparent then donítí get involved with someone who could be devastated by your revelations. If youíre involved with someone who shows any indifference towards your children, talk to them and voice your concerns.

    It takes a special person to be a stepparent and there are many wonderful people out there who make success stories out of their blended families. I was fortunate enough to find a man who raised my two sons as his own. Along with my two sons, his son and the two children we had together, we were a family. No, we werenít perfect but we learned together and made our mistakes along the way.

    Thereís no shame in admitting that you donít feel you can take on the responsibility of raising children other than your own. In fact, this is much better than jumping into a commitment that in your heart you know you are not ready for. If these are issues that plague your current relationship or one that you are considering committing to, be open and honest about your feelings. Talk to each other and address your concerns. Consider seeking the professional help of a counselor. If you really want a relationship to work, you have to work at it. Love and acceptance are the keys to a healthy family structure.

    Written by Darlene ZagataRate this article:

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