Being a parent is tough enough, but being a step-parent adds a whole new level of complexity. Not only is it hard to know if we are doing a good job but step-children don't have to give you unconditional love the way a birth child is expected to. They may even hate or resent you initially.
Ex-spouses have their eyes on you, too. So how is one to boost their confidence and know they are doing a good job as step-parent?
Do your research
If you are taking on the new role and responsibility of being a step-parent, treat it as you would when starting a new job that requires training. Read some books or find a good parenting class. If you are trying to figure things out on the fly, you're more likely to feel unsure of yourself and your approaches.
Treat it as you would when starting a new job that requires training.
Having some guidelines and principles to apply will give you confidence that you're on the right track, even when you fall off occasionally (or even regularly!).
Find a support group
Step-parenting is not the same as parenting your own children. There are unique situations and challenges. You will go through emotional situations that only someone in the same shoes would fully appreciate and understand. Find a group of other step-parents, either online or in your community, so you can connect with one another.
Step-parenting is not the same as parenting your own children.
Hearing other people's story will normalize your experiences. Sharing your story will help you from keeping pent-up emotions. Knowing you are not doing this alone will boost your confidence.
Be gentle on yourself
Usually we are doing much better at being a step-parent than we think. We are our own worst critics. When your negative self-talk begins, learn methods to quiet it down.
For me, that means daily mindfulness meditations. For others it's a simple mantra like, "You got this, you're doing fine" or "This too shall pass." Treat yourself as kindly as you would treat another friend.
Go for a small win
If you are very goal oriented, establish a small goal for yourself and then celebrate that accomplishment! The trick is to make a goal that is small and short-term. For example, giving each child a show of appreciation each day for a week.
If you are very goal oriented, establish a small goal for yourself and then celebrate that accomplishment!
Hitting goals is motivating and allows even more confidence in your ability to tackle the next slightly bigger goal.
Ask your partner for what you need
Besides yourself, your new partner is the best source of encouragement you have. Let them know that you would appreciate hearing positive feedback from them. Let them know that their words of affirmation and appreciation go a long way in keeping you feeling positive and confident about step-parenting their children.
Pay attention to what's working
We are so wired to look for mistakes and shortcomings that we often forget to focus on the things that are working and going well in our new families. Ask yourself, why aren't we doing worse? How great is it that we're only fighting a few times a week instead of every single day? A child smiling or asking to hold your hand is a sign you are doing well in their books.
Remember to remind yourself of this so you don't lose sight of the things you are getting right.
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