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Twelve Mistakes to Avoid in Stepparenting

  • Trying to take the place of the biological same-sex parent

  • Many new stepparents express a desire to bond immediately with the stepchildren. Unfortunately, it's probably a wish that is bound to be unfulfilled. As stated throughout this book, it takes time for real trust and love to develop and grow. Stepparents who have no children of their own seem to be the most inclined to jump right in. Those who do get bruised and their feelings hurt.

    "Although I would love to have my four-year-old stepson call me 'Daddy,' 1 wouldn't ask him to. I know he'd feel disloyal to his own dad doing that," said a stepfather of less than a year. "I try to stay open to his needs, not mine. I have different skills than his natural father, and share those with my stepson."

  • Forgetting to laugh

  • The English novelist, William Makepeace Thackeray, said "A good laugh is sunshine in a house." And so it is. Laughter reduces stress as it relaxes facial muscles and turns off the "fight or flight" response. It teaches children to laugh at themselves and take things in perspective, so they can learn from mistakes, rather than agonizing over them or becoming frozen for fear of repeating errors.

    In her book, The Male Stress Syndrome, author Georgia Witkin, Ph.D., includes in her checklist of behaviors that may identify potential marital stresses, "I seem to have no sense of humor when I am at home."

    That's not to say that there aren't problems in merging two families. There are. But laughter and the use of kind and gentle humor can help smooth over some of the rough spots. Make sure laughter finds a place in your blended family home.

  • Closing your heart to love

  • You may not realize that you have closed your heart to love. But the need for self-protection runs deep. You may be afraid to share your children with their stepparent because some hidden part of you fears the stability of your new marriage. "After all, if my first marriage failed ..." you whisper in the secret part of your soul. So you protect yourself from vulnerability, not realizing that in giving and receiving love we must risk being vulnerable, must open our heart.

    Those who are stepparents may deeply love their mate, but keep their heart closed to the stepchildren for the same reason: fear of failure. But the best way to bond with these children is to open your heart to them, and yes, to risk being rejected, to risk being hurt, and to risk losing them if your marriage fails. But oh ... the benefits are grand.

    How Can You Keep From Tripping?
    You can keep from tripping by employing the same techniques you use when you find yourself in a strange hotel room and know you may need to get up in the middle of the night.

    • Take notice of your surroundings
    • Become aware of potential dangers
    • Remove obstacles so you won't trip over them
    • Use a night-light (otherwise known as love), to help you find your way.


    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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