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Twelve Mistakes to Avoid in Stepparenting

  • Using money as a power play

  • Using money as power play should be restricted for games of Monopoly only. Don't use it for punishment, such as telling your ES that he or she can't have the kids because the child support money is late. When you do that, you punish your kids, who may have been looking forward to seeing their other parent. You may turn out to be the bad guy.

    If you're the steppparent, don't try to buy your stepchildren's favor by getting expensive gifts or paying for lessons in order to outshine your spouse's ES. The kids will probably see through your attempt, accept your expensive gifts, and then resent you for thinking they could be bought. Kids work in mysterious ways.

  • Forgetting that the children's well-being is your first priority
    It's easy to get so caught up with "getting even" with your ES that your motive for most of your actions and decisions is revenge. Try changing this destructive attitude by using a technique known as "thought stopping." It involves changing your thoughts by consciously replacing them with a positive and healthier message. You can't hold two thoughts in your head simultaneously, so if you're thinking, "This discussion is for the good of my kids," you can't also be thinking, "This son-of-a-gun is going to tell me he can't pay for camp again," or worse, "She always makes me question my parenting skills."

    Practice banning all violent or emotional language and substituting an objective approach. If necessary, repeat a calming mantra, such as "Avoid emotional traps." You may quickly discover that not only are your encounters with your ES less stressful, but that he or she also becomes less emotional and more objective during your meetings.

  • Neglecting your health

  • Just as football teams acknowledge an enthusiastic crowd as "the twelfth man," you and your spouse need to acknowledge the presence of the other biological parent as having an influence over your lives. Unfortunately, it may not always be a positive one. While you can control just how invasive the influence may become, it is there, and to deny that fact is not facing reality.

    This added person in your lives often places extra stress on your new marriage, which can have harmful and often debilitating effects on your physical and emotional health. In addition, many remarriages involve two-career couples, which adds to the stress level. Be aware of these added pressures and take extra care to protect your health. This includes:

    • maintaining a balanced diet
    • making exercise a part of your lifestyle
    • utilizing stress reducing techniques such as massage, relaxation exercises, yoga, biofeedback, meditation, and self-hypnosis
    • avoiding known harmful activities, such as smoking, use of illegal drugs, excessive use of alcohol, and overexposure to the sun
    • seeking therapy, if needed
    • getting enough rest.

    While you may laugh at the possibility of your ever getting enough rest, it is a vital and often overlooked part of reducing stress.


    From Blending Families by Elaine Fantle Shimberg. Copyright 1999. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

    If you'd like to buy this book, click here or on the book cover. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.


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