Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Recording your stepfamily life

It is good to keep a journal or diary. There are lots of reasons to put words down on paper. Here are a few:

1. Writing is a fabulous way to do some more thinking about things that happen during the day or week. It is impossible to do all the thinking that is needed about every single situation when that situation is happening. Revisiting that situation by writing about it helps not only to remember it, but also to think more about it. Situation A may feel like it is closed, over and done with, but when you write about it you may realize that it is worth another visit. There may be a conversation with someone that needs to happen and you didn't know because you didn't have adequate time to think about it.

2. Writing is a great way to complete half expressed emotions. There are times and you know when they are, that you simply cannot express what you feel. Maybe you could not muster up the courage to express it in the moment or may the expression was too hard for other people to accept. Maybe you were so mad that you wanted to cuss a blue streak, but since you don't do that, you bottled up the anger. Get it out on paper.

3. Creativity sometimes emerges in writing. Many people think that writing is merely a strict recording of an event. Well, it's not. Writing is a creative act in which a person tries to select words which accurately represent an event. That is very differet. It is the difference between a photograph and a mosaic of small tiles. The mosaic is never going to the be an exact representation, but it will approximate the event with the artist's bias, sometimes intentional bias. The same is true of journaling. You get to create. Oh, and then there are magical moments when writing that inspire something new in the relationship. These kinds of special times can sometimes only emerge when writing.

So, go get a $1.99 pad or whatever and start recording your stepfamily life. It will not be time wasted.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I'd like to say they'll love you

I read an article online today that was advice to stepdads. It went something like this:

Your stepchildren may not like you right away because they may still hurt from their parent's divorce, but stick in there and be patient and then they will really learn to like you.

Well, I'd like to make such promises and make you feel all good about being a stepparent, but placing such promises out there is not only wrong, it is dangerous.

DON'T be patience and stick it out because they will like you some day. Be patient because it is the right thing to do. Be good to your stepchildren because they need someone to be good to them, not so you will get something out of it, like their approval.

Self-interest is not healthy motivation for good parenting or stepparenting. It might sound nice and appeal to what you feel like you want, but when you allow your success as a stepparent to be tethered to the choice of child based on their feelings of the moment, then you have given away your power and influence. That's irresponsible.

Goodness, not self-interest should be your guide. Self-interest rarely results in wisdom and health.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Stepfathers and Father's Day

Father's Day is just around the corner. So, what's it ging to be? Will stepfather be honored in any way or will he be chopped liver?

One of the challenges for stepchildren honoring their stepfather on Father's Day is that it feels like absolute betrayal. "He's not my father!" Many stepfamily situations place the children in conflict as one bio parent lives with them and one doesn't. This post is for the kind of stepfamily where the children struggle with the conflict of living with a man who is not their father and not living with a man who is theri father.

Typically, the stepfather is not going to require or expect anything on Father's Day from his stepchildren because he knows his place as "not the father." However, he is investing time, money, his heart, his emotions, sharing a house, supplying everyone with resources etc. He is being fatherish in some ways.

How can stepchildren honor their stepfather without betraying their own father?

1. Certainly honor the bio father appropriately.

2. Honor the stepfather as a stepfather, not as the father.

It is a major step in the minds of children to make the distinction that a stepfather is one role and father is another.

3. Mom, do not force the issue. It is not the end of the world if the child does not choose to honor the stepfather on Father's Day. Merely planting the seed, the idea that stepfather can be honored without it being a betrayal of father is a good start.

Holidays like Father's Day are good opportunites to create psychological space for a stepfather to become part of the new normal.