Recently, I was reflecting on my early days as a stepparent, remembering the many times when I felt uncomfortable in this new role.
Frustrated and consumed with anxiety, I worried so much about what everyone was thinking about me and what they wanted or needed from me. This is the cycle I want to explore with you. Perhaps you find yourself in the same carousel of stress and anxiety when it comes to stepparenting.
Should I attend my stepchild’s chorus concert? How about her back-to-school night?
If not now, when should I start attending these types of events?
Should I say something to my stepchild about doing his homework?
How would I even say it if I did?
Should I offer to pick my stepchild up or drop her off to help out my partner?
How will that work without my partner around me?
What is appropriate and what is not?
Beyond being anxious about the level of involvement I should or shouldn’t have in my stepchild’s life, the worst feeling was that of being an awkward bystander between my partner and my stepdaughter’s mother when they had uncomfortable conversations, such as my stepdaughter not turning in her homework during the week.
The stress of being a good partner, stepparent, and getting all of these things “right,” or at least not getting them wrong, would make my stomach queasy and my knees shake. I was swamped with overwhelming thoughts and emotions. I remember thinking “no matter what, someone will probably be disappointed with me. I can’t do anything right.” I felt ineffective and hopeless.
As a stepparent, can you relate?
Your Emotions Are Indicators
If this sounds familiar, please know that these feelings are informing you that something’s not right. Understanding how your emotions are informing you to make a change for the better is how you begin to move through the Stepparenting Cycle.
Imagine for a moment…
- Clearly, rationally and calmly attending a social event where your partner’s ex will also be and taking assertive action from an intuitive place that honors you and others…
- Feeling grounded and content in your decisions while actively participating in your stepchild’s life with joy and ease…
- Feeling free to confidently show up in your truth every time you attend your partner’s ex-mother-in-law’s family events without worrying about anyone else’s judgment or opinions…
- Growing closer in your relationships with your partner and stepchild and delighting in your time together…
All of these are possible for you if you are able to reframe your emotions into positive and actionable steps within the Stepparenting Cycle. It’s what I did and what I want to share with you in hopes that it will help you!
Step 1: Understand your origin story and its impact on your life
I was a child when my family moved to America from Russia and had the lonely task of finding myself and my voice in a culture that was so far opposite from where I was born. Here are a few examples:
In Soviet Russia, children were treated like possessions;
American culture aims to help children become autonomous and independent.
In Soviet Russia, children were expected to listen to their elders who had all the answers;
American culture values respecting boundaries and obtaining consent from youth.
- In Soviet Russia, citizens were controlled by the government through propaganda, living in fear of retaliation; America values freedom and, at least back then, objective news.
I was born in a country that was so different from where I actually grew up. My origin story was filled with paradox and contradictions and it was important for me to own both my heritage and who I was becoming as part of my personal story.
Step 2: Find your own voice and define your own values
My early childhood unfolded under the same school of thought as my parents’ and grandparents’: I was silenced, controlled and criticized. This made me feel small, insecure, and foolish. It left me feeling depleted and empty many times.
But as I immersed myself more into American culture, I found freedom and encouragement to challenge the early rules that had been once forced on me, eventually awakening me to the power within to create a life on my own terms, not anyone else’s.
This journey of self-discovery prepared me to become a stepmom. Through stepparenting, I was able to further amplify my voice and autonomy.
Step 3: Find your purpose in stepparenting
I believe that you are called into your stepchild’s life and the lives of the parents and caregivers that surround them as part of your purpose. The same way that these people are called into your life.
To that end, as a stepparent you are gifted with a unique opportunity. You’re coming into the family at a critical time. This season of change ushers in a new space for intention and legacy. These changes are inviting your stepchild and everyone involved to stretch and to see how adaptive, strong and resilient each of you can be.
Specifically for you, this is a one-of-a-kind invitation to assertively speak your truth and bring your unique background and experience to the new family table.
Closing The Cycle
Each step in the Stepparenting Cycle are both critical milestones and common struggles for most stepparents. When you’re able to assertively define your story, voice and values and define your legacy as part of the new family, you’re modeling what it means to honor yourself and others and that is a purposeful way of living.
It can also serve as inspiration!
Because of my personal experience as a stepparent, I was inspired to launch Synergistic Stepparenting Breakthrough, a proven 5-part process to help other stepparents transform family chaos into harmonious co-parenting by building meaningful and lasting relationships with ease and joy.
My methodology helps you build healthy relationships that welcomes and leverages your personal skills, knowledge, and background in order to build the strong and beautiful family foundation you desire.
If you’re currently experiencing frustrations in your stepparenting journey and want to learn more, check out my content or book a free call with me at synergisticstepparenting.com/work!
Until next time, be well!
Stepparenting Coach & Strategist
Find out more about our blog author and wellness coach Maria Natapov here.