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When a Stepparent Needs Help

By now you have already accepted the fact that stepparenting is not an easy task. Whatever Brady Bunch dreams you started with have probably been replaced with a more severe reality that the missing link of biology is a bigger factor than you expected. The absence of the birth connection is bound to impact every stepfamily at some level, some time.

Adjusting to new rules and new responsibilities is certain to put stress on newly formed relationships. Unrealistic expectations and unjustified behavior present early obstacles to healthy adjustments. Frequently these roadblocks are cleared by a combination of time, respect and cooperation; however, left unaddressed for long periods they are likely to become unmanageable. People are resilient for the most part and we strive for balance and contentment in our lives. A little understanding goes a long way and when you add patience and genuine caring to the mix, the margin for improvement expands greatly. But for this simple formula to be effective, it must be practiced by everyone in the association.

The family is the primary and predominant membership organization in society. Most of the values and priorities of adults are learned from early family experiences. Children in blended families may be confused by the presence of a different dynamic or belief system and a reasonable period of adjustment is wise to anticipate. Setbacks and the testing of new authority figures are almost certain…but at what point do negative behaviors and responses signify that we need help?

The skills, patience and tolerance we bring to the blended family vary depending on our unique personalities and background; therefore, the situations requiring outside help will differ accordingly. Whether we take advantage of self-help books, internet resources or personal consultation with a professional, it is important to recognize the indicators suggesting that we seek help.

In their book, 8 Strategies for Successful Step-Parenting, Nadir Baksh and Laurie Murphy identify ten signs that point to a need for help. They include: consistent feelings of anger or agitation, experiencing aggressive verbal or physical outbursts, depression, deep regret and thoughts of leaving your spouse to escape the circumstances. To paraphrase, overwhelming emotions, real or perceived, will eventually affect decision making and the accompanying actions. The ability to define and address a problem can be seriously compromised by stress and negative feelings. Help is available.

Proactively seeking help prior to a crisis can actually prevent one from happening. Support groups or forums consisting of parents who can relate to your frustration may help ease the burdens of relationships and assure you that you are not alone in your circumstances. Professional organizations exist for the sole purpose of teaching new and enhanced parenting methods and many counselors specialize in coaching individuals toward “better life solutions". Family therapy addresses the individual and the unit as a whole.

No one sets out to fail, but stubbornness, pride and anger create a natural habitat for the trouble that leads to failure. Humility, openness and the willingness to accept help can keep that failure at bay until a sound approach is developed and applied. Seeking help is viewed by some as a sign of weakness. Do not be held back by that misconception. The most successful people in history have been helped by a mentor or advisor in their field. Reaching out and accepting help is a trait of personal strength

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