Do you have physically violent stepchildren?

28 07 2009

Ladies: Wednesday Martin, the author of Stepmonster is looking for stepmoms to interview. Here is her request and contact info:

“If you are a woman with stepchildren who has experienced physical violence in your household at the hands of your stepchild or adult stepchild, or know someone who is, I would like to hear from you for research purposes. I also encourage you to find support so that you can feel and be safe in your home. My email address is wednesday@wednesdaymartin.com.”

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Your Questions Answered: Anger at the Stepkids

28 07 2009

Dear Jacque, I want to thank you for being such a wonderful and insightful resource for stepmoms!!! I am writing to request your advice on an issue. I am a stepmom to an 11-year-old girl, Sylvie. I have been in Sylvie’s life for 7 years and overall we have had a good relationship and we do love each other, although it is certainly complicated by all of the issues relevant to “steps.” In the past year, Sylvie has changed dramatically. She has become sarcastic and angry and very difficult to deal with. I believe this is caused by a few factors, including the fact that I gave birth to a son 2 years ago and, although Sylvie adores him, she is no longer the only child. However, I think the primary cause of this change in behavior is the onset of adolescence and the normal development issues that are very unpleasant for parents.

My problem is dealing with the intense anger that I have felt toward my stepdaughter. It is much more difficult to cope with this behavior when it is a stepchild. I feel angry and resentful often and I need a place to process these feelings and move beyond them. Do you have any resources for me to review that will give me techniques for dealing with a very difficult tween stepdaughter and handling my anger and resentment in a way that is least destructive to my family? I do not want to ruminate over these feelings and I certainly do not want to create an enduring riff in my relationship with my stepdaughter. If anything, I would like to take this challenge as an opportunity to grow.

Any advice that you have would be so greatly appreciated. Thank you so much! Keep up the wonderful work.

A tween girl! I have one of those myself. And you’re absolutely right that part of what is happening in your home right now is the normal development stage of a budding teenager. I’m not aware of all the specifics of your situation, but it’s very possible that jealousy of her younger half-sibling is playing a role, as well as anger or grief over the end of her parents’ relationship. If she has a stepdad in her mother’s home or stepsiblings, those dynamics could also be affecting her behavior. But as you say so eloquently in your letter, knowing what it is doesn’t make it any easier!

Dealing with anger doesn’t necessarily get less challenging over time because the longer we are in a stepfamily, the easier it is to call up the long list of hurts and injustices every time something new flares up. I think there are a couple of things we can do to work through anger at our stepchildren in a healthy way. It involves both direct and indirect methods.

Insist on respectful behavior. There are kids who say please and thank you (even if they are surly about it) and there are kids who are not required to be respectful by their biological parents. Whichever type of stepchild you’ve been blessed with, it is absolutely okay to demand respect in your own home. Clearly outline how you expect to be treated, share it with your spouse, and insist that your tween speak graciously to you. When I’ve been on the receiving end of disrespectful behavior in my home I addressed it like this: “I know you’re at an age when you think adults don’t know anything and that’s just fine. You can think whatever you want in the privacy of your own mind. But I will not tolerate disrespectful behavior toward me in this house.”

Disrupt the rumination.Most women are accomplished ruminators. When something makes us angry we descend into a spiral of negative thoughts that make us remember every single thing that person has ever done to piss us off. The more we think about how wronged we are, the angrier we get. And on it goes. Do whatever it takes to stop the thoughts. In my book, A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom, I describe how I used this trick whenever I was having jealous thoughts about the ex wife. It works with angry thoughts directed at the kids, too:

“Find a way to laugh, to change the downward spiral of your thoughts mid-stream. Here’s a completely ludicrous exercise to try. I’ve done it and it’s so stupid, it actually works. It was beginning to feel like there was a track in my brain that the ugly, jealous thoughts, once started, would just run along, as though they were recordings. I wondered what would happen if I disrupted the flow of negative thoughts with a nonsensical word that would jar me out of the cycle. My youngest stepdaughter was wearing a shirt with a pineapple on it that day. So I started saying “pineapple” to myself every time I started feeling jealous, and it was so ridiculous I ended up laughing every time. The good news is that it worked.”

Find the humor.Asserting your authority with a teenager is a good way for a stepmom to drive herself crazy. The last thing a teen wants is a non-blood adult telling them what to do–they don’t even want their biological parents giving them direction. Humor works really well to help diffuse tension between stepfamily members. And it’s a fantastic antidote to anger, too. It’s hard to hold onto rage at a stepchild when you’re smiling. If my tween and teen stepkids make a sassy remark, my blood pressure doesn’t rise at all when I respond with something like, “Oh boy, here we go. Teenage angst. Time for me to move out until the hormones have stabilized again and you’re a normal human being!”

Take ten breaths. If you’re mad at a tween or teen, do not engage in a conflict when you’re in the heat of the moment. Instead, tell a child you’ll address whatever the conflict is when you’re feeling more calm. Leave the room. Take ten deep breaths. Calm your body so you’re not clouded by the adrenaline in your system.  

Move your anger outside. If you’re raging around the house because of something a stepkid did, get out of the house for a while and do something that nurtures you. Take your son to the park. Meet a friend for a vent session. Go for a run or get a massage.  

Remember what it was like.The adolescent years are difficult for kids. I mean, seriously. Would you want to return to that time in your life? Kids are cruel to each other. Your body is changing. You don’t understand why you feel like crying all the time. Every injustice is magnified every hurt is the end of the world. Every time you feel anger toward your stepchild, take a moment to remember a painful moment from your own adolescence.

Let your partner deal with his kid.  Have a discussion with your spouse about how you can best get through these coming years together. Stepfamilies tend to do better when Dad steps up his parenting and Stepmom steps back.

Hold on. The next few years are going to be a wild ride. Sometimes all you can do during the turbulent teen years is to hold on tight until it’s over.

For many more specific tips to help you deal with the many stressors of stepfamily life, check out my book: A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom.  Readers: Please chime in if you have advice to share about how you’ve dealt with your anger at a stepkid! Oh, and one more thing: DO NOT HANG OUT WITH ANYONE WHO SAYS THIS TO YOU, “How could you be mad at her? She’s just a kid.” Call up any stepmother you know or log on and chat with your stepmother friends. It takes one to know one.





New Podcast: Interview with Izzy Rose

21 07 2009

stepmomcircles3A new Stepmom Circles podcast is ready for your listening pleasure! Check out my interview with Izzy Rose, stepmom blogger and author of The Package Deal. For those of you in Chicago, Izzy will be signing books this Friday at the BlogHer conference. Find out more at Izzy’s blog www.stepmothersmilk.com Enjoy!

Click the link above to listen to this show or visit HERE to browse all the Stepmom Circles shows.





New Podcast: Wednesday Martin, PhD

14 07 2009

stepmomcircles3Ladies! I am so excited to announce that I’ve put together my very own podcast! The miracles of technology. I was a DJ in college and have sorely missed spinning tunes and interviewing fascinating people on the air. My new radio show is called Stepmom Circles.

In the first show I talk with author Wednesday MartinClick here to listen.  Or click on the Stepmom Circles Podcast tab at the top of this page for a list of all the shows.

If you’re interested in sponsoring the show, pop me an email at becomingastepmom (at) gmail (dot) com for more information.

I hope you enjoy the show! Join the Stepmom Circles group on FaceBook to discuss the show!

Cheers,

Jacque





Your Questions Answered: Stepmoms who have Stepmoms

14 07 2009

Hi Jacque!

I’m an adult stepkid and also a stepmom. My question is about my stepkid relationship. When I call my Dad and stepmom to say hello and plan a short visit, there is always underlying tension. And being a stepmom myself, I’m very respectful of my stepmom’s feelings of (un-stated) stress around the visit. So I respectfully tip-toe through the conversation.

As a stepmom, I don’t want to put my stepson through this awkward situation when he’s older. And as a stepkid, I’m curious how other adult stepkids work around this. Does anyone have advice for smooth navigation?

I guess I should mention that the trip to see my Dad and stepmom is a 3-hour drive… so it includes an overnight stay.

What a fantastic question! Thanks for sending it in. As a stepmom and stepdaughter myself I can completely relate. I’ll tell you my thoughts on this topic but please, if any of you reading this have ideas to share, please do! The more wisdom we can gather for each other, the better. In the meantime, here’s my two cents:

  • If possible don’t triangulate the relationship. You won’t know why there is underlying tension from your stepmother unless you ask her. Instead of going through your father,  try having an open discussion with her directly about what you could do to help make visits less stressful for everyone. Approach the issue as one adult to another. (This is not always easy or possible to do.)
  • Let go of your own need to please. If your stepmother is tense and unwilling to talk to you about it at all or without a fight, then the issue is hers to deal with. Unfortunately, an unhappy stepmother affects everyone. You’ll have to do what you need to do to make your own family feel comfortable. For instance, I’m assuming that you stay at your father’s house when you visit. Perhaps instead of staying at their house, you could book a night at a nearby hotel.
  • Ask them to visit you. Space can be a touchy issue. Sometimes if you change up the location of family visits, it can help change the tone of an event. You can ask them to visit you or meet somewhere in the middle in a place that doesn’t have any emotional baggage connected with it.
  • Be a good house guest.When we are children, relationships are mandatory in most cases. When we’re adults, we get to choose who we will spend our time with–and that includes choosing whether or not we will connect as adults with our parents and stepparents. Make sure if you are staying with your parents that you help out. Offer to pay for groceries, show up with a bottle of wine, ask if you can help sweep the floor or take the garbage out. Your stepmother probably has a certain way she runs her household and as adult stepchildren we need to respect those boundaries even if stepmom and dad are living in our childhood home.
  • Have an open door policy. As for your own stepson, the best way to make him feel relaxed about visits to your house as an adult is to make him feel welcome. If you’ve taken over his childhood room and turned it into a den, make sure to at least have a bed made up where he can sleep when he arrives. Plan dinners and activities together so you can spend time getting to know each other as adults. And just like when he was a minor, find ways that he can spend alone time with both you and his dad so you can all bond one-on-one.




Couples with Adult Children

14 07 2009

Ladies, the talented stepfamily coach Yvonne Kelly has teamed up with colleague Sheena Berg to create another free Step Dating teleseminar. It’s coming up fast on July 16 from 9:00-10:30 p.m. EST. Here’s what Yvonne says about it:

“With the increase of Baby-Boomers back on the dating scene today, more couples are finding themselves trying to navigate the turbulent waters of dating amid the concerns and objections of their adult children.

Many couples assume that dating when their children are independent or when their partner’s children are adults, will be smooth sailing and far less complicated than if the children were young and still living with them — unexpectedly, this is often not the case.

The unanticipated challenges are what usually trip people up and create unnecessary friction for the step dating couple. When people have an understanding of what to expect going in, they increase their chances of relationship success dramatically.”

To learn more about the seminar visit www.stepdating.ca. If you can’t make it at that date and time there will be a recording available afterward.





It’s Not Fair!

2 07 2009

Let’s just put it out there today, ladies. Sometimes this thought crosses our minds: (say it with me out loud) IT’S NOT FAIR!!!!!

There are many parts of stepmothering that don’t feel fair and it feels like there’s not a damn thing we can do about it–if we plan to stay in our marriages.

So as we head off to celebrate our country’s Independence (for those of you in the U.S.A.), I thought I would post some thoughts on what we can do this weekend as our families gather. Refer to this list if you have one of those moments that feels like you’re getting the shaft yet again.

  • Throw a tantrum. To your best friend, in private, in your journal, in your car. It is not healthy to carry anger around in your heart. You have to get it out and sometimes throwing a good, old-fashioned tantrum is the best way to do it.
  • Beat something up.And I don’t mean your husband. A few months ago a friend gave me a rage doll. It’s this stuffed faceless doll that I can beat the hell out of and scream. The first time I tried it I felt like an idiot. The second time, it felt really good. My stepkids have used the rage doll when they’re mad and they now carry it around like a loving friend.
  • Cry. Because it ain’t fair, sister. But you’re strong enough to handle it and you will handle it. But for right now, just feel sorry for yourself and cry.
  • Buy yourself something that’s pretty or smells good. I know, I know, I shouldn’t promote blatant consumerism especially during these trying economic times, but sometimes a new perfume or a gorgeous new (reasonably priced ) handbag are just what the doctor ordered.
  • Find allies.A dear friend of mind is also a stepmom but we’ve known each other since we were kids. Recently we hung out for an afternoon and I commented on how negative we seem to be when we’re together lately. She summed it up beautifully. “There’s no one else I can talk to about this who understands and I have to get it out.” Amen, sister. We decided to wrap up our conversations with positives but the negative crap has to come out first.
  • Refuse to suck it up.If things in your marriage or stepfamily life are hurting you, pissing you off, or making you feel taken advantage of, do not just suck it up. I often hear from stepmoms that their husbands wish they would “suck it up” and just deal. And that’s great if you want to have a divorce later on. But you can’t continue to suck it up over and over again without filling yourself up with anger that will come out in devastating ways later on. Instead, do what you need to in order to be proactive. Find a counselor well-versed in stepfamily dynamics, read every book you can find, communicate with your spouse, create strategies that will help you all live together in greater harmony.