I was wondering if you had any suggestions for books that I could read. I am a stepmother to two kids, I have been their step mom for 3 years. We also have 2 additional girls. We need help with communication. The kids’ mom is a hot head and is starting to put them in the middle of things because she is jealous and wants things to be her way or the highway, and we have told her NO! She’s gone crazy! And trying to find fault anywhere she can with my husband and particularly with me so she can take them away from us. We split custody 50/50, but starting in the beginning of this past year, I have taken care of them after school Mon-Fri and had them with me and the girls all summer. I understand the natural jealousy and threat she must feel with the fact that I spend the most time with them. Anyway, what are your thoughts? -A Concerned Stepmom
The Courage to be a Stepmom by Sue Patton Thoele is a fantastic book choice. The author is a psychotherapist who has walked the path and lives to write about it. It comes HIGHLY recommended.
The first question is, what is the goal here? Or more specifically, what is the goal for you and what is the goal for the children? What is the best way to achieve balance and unity in this situation?
When communicating with the other parent, your spouse needs to be the main show. You are an equal party in your marriage, but when it comes to managing the relationship with his children’s mother, it is his responsibility to be the first line of offense (or defense depending on how you see it) and support you along the way.
Communication is going to be vital and a challenge at times. The intensity of the emotion that comes with the protectiveness we feel for our children and any hurt or anger we feel ourselves can become an obstacle. In any form of communication, once one party feels defensive and attacked, the communication can become blocked and shut down. The goal becomes defending yourself and not as much hearing what the other person has to say. That will be the challenge.
If a disagreement between you does arise, focus on the fact that you do not have control over how you are spoken to, what is said or the way it said, but you do have control over how you respond. Make it clear how you expect to be spoken to and how to respectfully meet your needs. If the person you are speaking to becomes irrational, do your best to remain calm and keep your points simple and clear. Feeding fire with fire only creates a bigger blaze, making it less manageable to control and creating lasting damage even after it burns out.
When it comes to the children, do whatever you can not to ever bad mouth the other parent. When we speak negatively of someone, we are attempting to sway the person we are telling to side with us and pick an allegiance. Inadvertently asking a child to pick an allegiance of those they are supposed to trust is unfair, unnecessary and hurtful, no matter which direction it goes in. It is extremely important to model behavior and respect for everyone in the family because children learn what they see and experience. Every interaction we have with others, teaches them how to treat people and us! Again, you can not control how they perceive the interactions between you and the other parent, but you can definitely control how you engage and what you model.
The best part of this is that you are in complete control of how you handle and view this situation, which is both empowering and comforting. No matter what happens, you get to call the shots as to how you will respond. Not to say it’s easy (and may even feel impossible at times) to let go of the frustration and the moments where you feel your hands are tied, but when you step back and realize that you can change your perspective, your viewpoint, your attitude, at any moment, you have the ability to maintain your balance each step of the way.