Loss of Control

18 06 2009

In a culture that increasingly teaches us that the individual is greater than the collective, it’s no surprise that one of the reasons stepfamilies are so challenging is each individual’s loss of control. A child loses control of their space and their things. Each visit they leave things behind or lose them under a bed.

A stepmother loses control of her home environment each time the children visit. Father’s lose control of the decisions that are made by their ex-wives about the children’s lives. Mothers lose control of their children when they leave for Dad’s house.

Everyone feels out of control, which equals FEAR. To begin alleviating fear, find ways to give everyone a sense that they have a say in what is happening in their lives.

Give the kids space. Even if you don’t have a room for each child in your home, consider giving them at least some corner that is theirs. If it’s a drawer, assure them no one will open it while they’re gone. Give them complete control over what happens with that space.

Figure out what you do have influence over.Stepmoms, try this. Make a list of all the things you can control when the stepchildren come over. Your list is probably a lot longer than you think. A stepmom in a bad mood is a powerful, though negative way, that stepmoms control their environment. In what positive, proactive ways can you influence what happens in your home? For instance, in our house we know that transition days are tough so instead of forcing everyone to sit at the dinner table and suffer through a tense meal, we take the night off the family dinner and resume the next night.

Let your children experience their lives. Giving up your kids to the other household when it’s time for visitation can be extremely challenging for bio parents. You have no idea what your kids are doing in the other house. You aren’t there to comfort them when something happens. It’s scary and heartbreaking to give up that control. This might be cold comfort, but remember that our children have their own paths to walk. They have their own lessons to learn and mistakes to make. They will see things and do things at school, at camp, at a job, at college that you have no control over.  The best gift you can give your kids is a relationship with their other bio parent.

Ask for input.If you give everyone in your stepfamily a voice, that can go a long way toward combating the fear that results from a loss of control. If you’re going on vacation together, ask each kid to be responsible for coming up with an activity the family can do together. Ask for ideas about what should be on the menu or in the fridge.

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